Raw is risky: Longtime North Dakota lawmaker dies after eating raw oysters in New Orleans

The New Orleans Advocate reports that former longtime Mandan Republican state Rep. Rae Ann Kelsch has died.

Alex Kelsch says his mother died early Tuesday morning at a New Orleans hospital from a bacterial infection caused by eating raw oysters at a restaurant there. She was 58.

Kelsch died after becoming infected with Vibrio vulnificus, which is linked to oysters, according to the Bismarck Tribune.

Kelsch was first elected to the North Dakota House in 1990 and served 22 years, including as the chairwoman of the Education Committee.

She was defeated in the 2012 primary, after it came to light she didn’t file state income tax returns for seven years.

Kelsch’s husband, Thomas, a lawyer, said at the time that he was to blame for the tax problems. The couple said the tax bill was eventually paid.

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."

Child dies in New Orleans E. coli outbreak; 2 others sick

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals confirms that a New Orleans-area child diagnosed with E. coli has died. The agency is now trying to find the exact source of the toxic infections that also made two other people sick.

Touro family physician Dr. Meredith Maxwell says, "If you look at a hamburger and it’s really pink, you could be at increased risk for E. coli, so you need to make sure your hamburger meat is cooked through and through.”