Health officials squash E. coli speculation in New Orleans-centered outbreak

State health officials say last month three people in the New Orleans area contracted E. coli bacteria. One of them recently died from the illness.

The funeral for 21-month-old Maelan Elizabeth Graffagnini was held Monday. Now the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has some partial answers.

Two other adults in the New Orleans area were also sickened by the same strain of E. coli linked to a multi-state outbreak.

But Tuesday night, state health officials are discounting speculation that in this new case, the bacteria was contracted from animals at the Audubon petting zoo. They say their scientific investigation shows otherwise.

Dr. Raoult Ratard, who is the state epidemiologist, wrote in a statement: "Contact with a petting zoo can be ruled out due to the fact that no cases, except one, had contact with the local petting zoo. The likely exposure is a food source but this has yet to be confirmed."

According to Dr. Gary Balsamo, state public health veterinarian and assistant state epidemiologist in the Office of Public Health, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, "Three cases of toxigenic E. coli were reported to DHH in May 2012 in the greater New Orleans area. These cases all have the same ‘DNA fingerprints.’ They are part of a CDC cluster of cases coming from several southern states. The CDC investigation has not yet identified the common source. Rumors that the strain are coming from petting zoos appear to be unfounded."

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A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time