Officials say recalled meat not to blame for death of Tenn. child - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Officials say recalled meat not to blame for death of Tenn. child

By DUNCAN MANSFIELD
Associated Press Writer

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - An eastern Tennessee child being treated for an E. coli infection has died, but health officials said Wednesday the case was not connected to a national recall of tainted hamburger meat.

Twenty-month-old Jaycee Burgin of Newport had been in critical condition since last week at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

Hospital spokesman Jim Ragonese said Wednesday that she had died but refused to provide any other information.

Her father, Joe Burgin, earlier told the Newport Plain Talk newspaper that she ate hamburger meat while dining out with her family several days before becoming ill.

However, testing by the state epidemiologist failed to find a common link for the strain of bacteria she contracted, said Ranee Randby, spokeswoman at the Knox County Health Department.

"The DNA fingerprint for that strain has not been linked to anything," she said. "It seems to be a sporadic case, which occasionally happens."

Randby said she understood the health investigation in the Burgin case was closed. Meanwhile, three other East Tennessee children infected by E. coli in recent days, all from Knox County, were connected to meat that's been recalled, she said.

"For the Knox County cases, all were linked to one strain that was identified as the same strain that was in the recalled ground beef," Randby said.

A 14-year-old boy was treated and released, while siblings John McDonald, 4, and Michaela McDonald, 1, remained at UT Medical Center.

Ragonese said Michaela McDonald was in stable condition and John McDonald was in serious condition.

Jim McDonald, father of the hospitalized siblings, has said they became ill after eating frozen hamburger patties purchased from a Sam's Club store and served Sept. 29 at a family cookout.

He said the patties were made by Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc., which issued a nationwide recall Oct. 6 over E. coli concerns.

E. coli infection is a food-borne bacteria that can be prevented by thoroughly cooking ground beef, avoiding unpasteurized milk and by washing hands carefully before preparing or eating foods, according to the Knox County Health Department.

Randby said this was the first time in memory that the local health department conducted an E. coli investigation, which included store sampling to make sure recalled meat was removed from store shelves.

The department only conducts a probe when at least three cases are reported at the same time.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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