Health authorities in Ohio are investigating a death that may be linked to the nationwide outbreak of bacterial illnesses caused by contaminated spinach harvested in California’s coastal valley, reports the Knight-Ridder Tribune.

Federal public health authorities cannot confirm the Ohio case as having a definite association with the outbreak of E.coli O157:H7 illnesses until the state laboratory has completed its examination of the patient’s specimens. Ohio authorities then must r eport the information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the same vein, state microbiologists in Albany are studying five more potential cases in New York, which could push the state’s total to 12 cases if those under study are confirmed. All confirmed and suspect cases are in upstate counties.

Dr. David Acheson, medical director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said what has seemed an escalating outbreak could soon reach its peak. However, as of yesterday, he reported six additional confirmed cases, bringing the nation al total to 114 in 21 states since Sunday. Among those affected, 75 percent are women. All victims range between 18 and 60 years of age.