E. coli (possibly an outbreak, possibly not) in northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia has sickened 13 people and resulted in the death of a young child, Tennessee public health officials said on Friday. Virginia has two confirmed cases of the E. coli O157:H7 with the one death.

tennessee.jpgNortheastern Tennessee has 11 laboratory-confirmed cases of E. coli since June 1, said David Kirschke, medical director of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office. Three cases were E. coli O157:H7, and the remainder other strains in a category known as non-O157, he said. Kirschke said no link has been made between the Virginia and Tennessee cases. Still, Kirschke said health officials are treating the cases as an outbreak due to their large number, their close proximity and the short time frame of their appearance

“It seems too coincidental to have this many cases in a week,” he said.

Recently Timothy Jones, the state epidemiologist in Tennessee said of the German E. coli O104:H4 outbreak: ”Using terms like ‘mutant killer bacteria’ is irresponsible … Bacteria mutate all the time, even the ones we’re comfortable with. And having a strain that is virulent is not unusual.”

The question is what strains are sickening kids in Tennessee?