E. coli outbreak investigation in Richey, MT almost over

Published: Aug. 15, 2016 at 9:26 PM CDT
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The investigation into an E. coli outbreak in Richey, Montana is almost over.

A 100 year anniversary is a milestone.

“It was wonderful. It was a good celebration,” says Agnes Sullivan, Richey resident.

It was supposed to be unforgettable, but for some who attended the Richey Centennial last month, it was unforgettable for the wrong reasons.

“It’s not something that usually happens,” says Sullivan.

Agnes Sullivan was one of the lucky ones. Around 40 people from 10 states reported they had been infected with E. Coli 0157, which causes severe diarrhea and abdominal cramps.

At least seven were hospitalized, and six Montana counties have been affected.

“You’re glad you didn’t get sick of course, but I do feel bad that we did have people that got sick,” says Sullivan.

County health official say those who became ill attended the class reunion event during the centennial. Officials interviewed many people who attended the event and asked them to fill out an online survey.

“If you had to have a foodborne outbreak, the timing couldn’t have been better,” says Jennifer Fladager, Dawson Co. Emergency Preparedness Coordinator.

Fladager had relatives who attended the celebration. She says staff members were prepared for this outbreak.

“We were aquatically trained and prepared for something like this. It’s rather ironic, we were just at a public health summer institute and we went over how to properly conduct case interviews with foodborne illness,” says Fladager.

Investigators say they have nearly completed their investigation and are working with the caterer to determine how the meal became contaminated.

“It of course puts a damper on it, but everybody that was here still enjoyed themselves,” says Sullivan.

Unfortunately for some, the memories came with some physical discomfort.

There haven't been any new outbreaks since the reunion.