Multi state E. coli outbreak- Source unknown and Investigation Underway

The Outbreak

The CDC, the FDA, several states,  and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service are investigating a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 infections.

The investigation started by the New Jersey Department of Health, working together with the CDC and FDA. In New Jersey, ill people included in the outbreak had test results showing the presence of E. coli bacteria. Laboratory testing is ongoing to link their illnesses to the outbreak using DNA fingerprinting.

In this outbreak, there are currently 17 cases in 7 states: Connecticut (2), Idaho (4), Missouri (1), New Jersey (6), Ohio (1), Pennsylvania (2), and Washington (1). The 17 illnesses occurred until March 31, 2018. Six of those infected have been hospitalized, one of the hospitalized patients developed hemolytic uremic syndrome. Illnesses started on March 22, 2018, and data include cases that were diagnosed until March 31, 2018. The states associated with the outbreak are not clustered together, making a common source more difficult to find.

The investigation of the E. coli outbreak is still ongoing. To date, no specific food item, grocery store, or restaurant chain has been identified as the source of infections.  People that became ill are being interviewed by State and local public health officials, to determine what they eat and what they could have been exposed to in the weeks before getting ill.

PulseNet (the national sub-typing network) is being used to identify illnesses that might be part of this outbreak. E. coli bacteria isolated from ill people it tested using Pulse-Field-Gel (PFGE) and Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS). The DNA fingerprints obtained by PulseNet are used to identify possible outbreaks, and WGS gives a more detailed DNA fingerprint of the organisms. Some people may not be included in CDC’s case count because no bacterial isolates are available for the DNA fingerprinting needed to link them to the outbreak.

The Lawsuits are coming

Marler Clark from the Food Safety Law firm reports that his firm was retained by three patients affected in the multi-state E. coli outbreak. The clients reside in Idaho, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. One client was hospitalized for three weeks after developing hemolytic uremic syndrome. Since the source of the outbreak is unknown, it is not clear who will be the target of the lawsuit.

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