CDC says at least 19 E. coli infections linked to Costco chicken salad

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Cases of E. Coli Traced To Costco Chicken Salad In Utah

(Reuters) -- At least 19 people in seven states may have been infected by E. coli after eating rotisserie chicken salad sold at Costco Wholesale Corp's stores, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.

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Five people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported, but two individuals developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a type of kidney failure that can lead to permanent organ damage.

The infections have been reported in Montana, Utah, Colorado, California, Missouri, Virginia and Washington, CDC said.

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CDC says at least 19 E. coli infections linked to Costco chicken salad
BOSTON - AUGUST 23: Colony of E. coli cells are grown in the synthetic biology lab at Harvard Medical School in Boston on Tuesday, August 23 2011. (Photo by Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
ELIOT, ME - MAY 26: Kyler Dove, a seventh grader at Marshwood Middle School in Eliot, stops to take a drink from one of the 11,520 water bottles donated to the school Tuesday, May 26, 2015 by Cumberland Farms. Home Depot and Hannaford have also made donations to the school as it manages the current E coli scare. (Photo by Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - MAY 23: A shopper looks for bottled water on nearly empty shelves at a New Seasons Supermarket May 23, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. Oregon health officials ordered Portland to issue a boil-water alert after three separate samples tested positive for E. coli, a bacterium that can cause severe gastrointestinal illness. (Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images)
Jack Kurtz, 10, right, and mother Paula Gillett pose for portrait in their Rockford, Illinois home, November 5, 2009. Jack recovered from a food-borne illness last year. The source of the E. coli that hospitalized him was never determined. (Photo by Lane Christiansen/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)
Madison Sedbrook, 6, right, and her mother Cindy are in their home at Highlands Ranch on Tuesday. Madison's parents are suing because she got e coli from eating raw cookie dough recalled by Nestle. Hyoung Chang/ The Denver Post (Photo By Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - FEBRUARY 21: A BJ's Wholesale Club awaits customers on February 21, 2007 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Yesterday, the giant wholesaler announced a voluntary recall of prepackaged Wellsley Farms mushrooms, due to possible trace amounts of E.coli. No cases of the illness have been reported. (Photo by Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)
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The current number of HUS cases is twice what is normally seen with E. coli O157:H7, the pathogen identified in the outbreak, said Bill Marler, a Seattle food safety attorney who represents people sickened by tainted food.

"This tells me that the number of ill is likely going to go up because the HUS cases are easier to track," Marler said.

Fourteen of 16 people bought or ate rotisserie chicken salad from Costco in the week before the illness started, but the ingredient linked to the infection has not been identified, the CDC said.

Costco said it stopped selling the chicken salad on Nov. 20, the same day it was notified by federal health officials that it was linked to cases of E. coli, said Craig Wilson, vice president of food safety at Costco.

E. coli O157:H7 can cause serious illness and is perhaps most often associated with a 1993 outbreak that killed four children who ate undercooked hamburgers at Jack in the Box restaurants.

Costco last year was linked to a salmonella outbreak caused by chicken products it sold in at least nine states. The contaminated chicken was supplied to Costco by California-based Foster Poultry Farms.

The current E. coli outbreak at Costco comes days after health officials linked burrito chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc <CMG.N> to more than 40 cases of E. coli O26 food poisoning in six states. No HUS nor deaths have been reported in that case.

Costco's shares closed down 1.3 percent at $162.19 after heavy trading on Tuesday and were down slightly more in extended trading.

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