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Multistate E. Coli O145 Outbreak Confirmed in Southern U.S.

At least 11 ill, 1 dead

The E. coli O145 outbreak that killed a 21-month-old girl in New Orleans on May 31 is connected to at least 11 illnesses across the southern United States, multiple state health departments confirmed with Food Safety Newstoday.

The Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Tennessee state health departments say they are working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the outbreak. The CDC has not yet released any other information related to the investigation, but a spokeswoman said states are in various stages of investigation while CDC plays a supportive organizing role.

So far, health officials do not know the source of the contamination, but many say the contamination vehicle is likely food. Food Safety News does not know if any other states may be involved in the investigation.

“At this time, we continue to interview new cases as we are notified of them,” a Georgia health department spokeswoman wrote in an email. “We have detected no food items or environmental exposures that are statistically associated with illness at this time. This investigation is ongoing.”

The confirmed cases are spread across the following states:

Georgia (5 illnesses), Louisiana (2 ill and 1 dead), Alabama (2 illnesses) and Florida (1 illness).

Officials in Alabama and Florida confirmed with Food Safety News that the pulse-field gel electrophoresis patterns — the E. coli’s DNA ‘fingerprint’ — matched between the E. coli O145 clusters.

Additionally, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Health said that one Tennessee man had suffered an E. coli O145 infection around May 1, but he could not confirm if that infection was related to the outbreak in other states.

The confirmed outbreak illnesses appear to have first began in mid-April to early May.

As of June 4, E. coli O145 is one of the ‘Big Six’ E. coli strains now considered an adulterant in ground beef and non-intact beef products by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Food Safety News first reported on this developing outbreak yesterday.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since its original publication earlier today to reflect new information about illnesses related to the outbreak.

© Food Safety News
  • WEC

    “now considered an adulterant in food”??? How about, “now considered an adulterant in raw ground beef and non-intact beef products”. I mean, its certainly not possible that these unfortunate illnesses were caused by some other vector…, right? Nice way to plug that in before the facts come out from the investigations…. It certainly may turn out to be a food product vehicle of transmission, nonetheless, a bit premature to throw that in at the end, in my opinion.

  • Thanks for suggesting to specify the adulterant in beef information, WEC.
    As far as the vehicle of contamination goes, it is certainly possible that it is not food and I did not intend to suggest that. With that said, investigators say it is likely food. Considering the fact that the outbreak spans — at the very least — from Georgia to Louisiana, the geographical evidence alone suggests it likely wasn’t caused by a water contamination or petting zoo interaction. Even for the cases in Louisiana, the investigators ruled out a petting zoo early on.

  • Thanks for suggesting to specify the adulterant in beef information, WEC.
    As far as the vehicle of contamination goes, it is certainly possible that it is not food and I did not intend to suggest that. With that said, investigators say it is likely food. Considering the fact that the outbreak spans — at the very least — from Georgia to Louisiana, the geographical evidence alone suggests it likely wasn’t caused by a water contamination or petting zoo interaction. Even for the cases in Louisiana, the investigators ruled out a petting zoo early on.

  • Kristina

    James, I’m an e coli survivor from a case last year. Please update this story when you get the news, I want to know if it’s source is linked to my strain.

  • A very sad and tragic outbreak. I suspect the common link between the cases will be attendance at a location such as a swimming pool. The key point is that non-O157 STEC are commonly passed from person-to-person rather then foods such as meat. With the introduction of mandatory testing for the Top 6 I am sure many are sitting back thinking the problem is solved. The reality is that we are far from addressing the non-O157 STEC issue and we need to focus beyond meat for sure.

  • Dr. Warriner – I suppose a swimming pool is possible, but there are culture positive matches in LA, TN, FL, AL and FL and perhaps other states. Under your theory that would either be everyone swam in 1 pool in 1 place or it is 1 very, very large pool.
    I think it is just too early to speculate on the cause. Past E. coli O145 outbreaks do not seem to help much:
    http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/e-coli-o145—a-decade-of-outbreaks/

  • A very sad and tragic outbreak. I suspect the common link between the cases will be attendance at a location such as a swimming pool. The key point is that non-O157 STEC are commonly passed from person-to-person rather then foods such as meat. With the introduction of mandatory testing for the Top 6 I am sure many are sitting back thinking the problem is solved. The reality is that we are far from addressing the non-O157 STEC issue and we need to focus beyond meat for sure.

  • Craig Hedberg

    The apparent age and gender distribution is typical of fresh produce (sprouts and leafy greens) outbreaks.

  • Elaine

    Same swimming pool seems rather unlikely but maybe they all went to the ocean. All that corexit sprayed might be a factor. I wonder if they even bothered to ask them or check?

  • Mort

    Oh that must be it! Of course “corexit” is a culture positive match with e. coli 0145. Why didn’t the damned experts figure that out? Why, again, are we paying them the big bucks?

  • Very sad for that child.
    “We have detected no food items or environmental exposures that are statistically associated with illness at this time. This investigation is ongoing.” — I am not sure if I believe this statement.

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