Arizona has confirmed 11 E. coli O157:H7 cases likely tied to cheese sold or tasted at Costco stores in October. Overall, more than two dozen cases of E. coli in five states, also including Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and California, are likely tied to such cheese, the Arizona Department of Health Services said in a news release.

The illnesses may be associated with cheese served and sold at “Cheese Road Shows” Costco held in October, the Arizona health officials said.

Federal, state and local health officials are working to determine the type of cheese causing illness. Preliminary data are pointing to the Dutch style Gouda, but health officials are still investigating, the news release said. The Arizona State Public Health Laboratory is now testing several samples.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that every year at least 2000 Americans are hospitalized, and about 60 die as a direct result of E. coli infection and its complications. A recent study estimated the annual cost of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses to be $405 million (in 2003 dollars), which included $370 million for premature deaths, $30 million for medical care, and $5 million for lost productivity (Frenzen, Drake, and Angulo, 2005).