Twenty-five people in ten states are part of a cluster of victims of an E. coli O157:H7 strain matched to ground beef from Fairbank Farms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Monday.

Those in the cluster have paid a heavy price.  Two are dead, three others developed a type of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and 16 of the victims have required hospitalization.

ecoli-outbreak-map-1.jpgCDC reports that the Massachusetts Department Health took a sample of the Fairbank Farms ground beef recovered from a patient’s home and matched it to patient isolates by DNA analysis.   That DNA “fingerprint” is what now connects the people who form the O157:H7 cluster.

Fairbank Farms, a meat processor located in upstate New York, recalled 545,699 pounds of ground beef products on Halloween.   According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service, the beef was distributed to retailers in 17 states.

CDC, FSIS, and state health departments are investigating the multi-state outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections.  “At least some of the illnesses appear to be associated with products subject to these recalls,” CDC reports.

“Most ill persons had consumed ground beef, with several purchasing the same or similar product from a common retail chain,” the CDC statement added.   “At least some of the illnesses appear to be associated with products subject to these recalls.”

The outbreak cluster with matching strains of E. coli O157:H7 identified in each state is as follows: California (1), Connecticut (4), Massachusetts (8), Maryland (1), Maine (2), New Hampshire (4), New Jersey (1), New York (1), Pennsylvania (2), and Vermont (1).

Of these, the genetic associations of 22 human isolates and the product isolate have been confirmed by an advanced secondary DNA test; secondary tests are pending on others. Depending on the results of continuing laboratory testing and ongoing case finding, the number of persons determined to be in this cluster may increase or decrease.

The first reported illness began on August 18, 2009, and the last began on October 10, 2009; however all but 2 patients reported becoming ill between September 17 and October 10, 2009.

Sixty-four percent of patients are male and 44 percent are less than 18 years old (range 1 to 84 years).

Most of the beef packages in the recall bear the establishment number “Est. 492” inside the USDA mark of inspection and have identifying package dates of “091409”, “091509” or “091609”.

As for the recall, none of the beef produced in mid-September would still be sold fresh.  Consumers in the larger 17-state area, however, should be checking their freezers for the ground beef.  (Freezing does not kill E. coli bacteria)

You are looking for beef packages with “Est. 492” inside the USDA mark of inspection, especially if you shop in any of the following stores:

In Connecticut, check your freezer if you shop at BJ’s, Grand Union, Price Chopper, and Shaw’s, or Trader Joe’s stores.

In Delaware, Acme, BJ’s, Pathmark, Surefresh, Trader Joe’s, stores sold Fairbank Farms beef.

Maine residents who shop at BJ’s, Shaw’s, or IGA stores should check their freezers.

In Massachusetts, the retailers for Fairbank Farms are BJ’s, Shaw’s, and Trader Joe’s stores.

Marylanders who shop at Acme, BJ’s, Martins, Surefresh, Trader Joe’s stores, check your freezers.

Up in New Hampshire, BJ’s stores sold the beef.

New Jersey’s Acme, A&P, BJ’s, Pathmark, and Trader Joe’s stores distribute Fairbank Farms products.

In New York, it is the A&P, BJ’s, Great American, IGA, Pathmark, Price Chopper, Grand Union, Trader Joe’s, and Waldbaum stores.

And In North Carolina any BJ’s, Food Lion, or Trader Joe’s store could have sold the contaminated ground beef.

Or any BJ’s in Ohio.

If you go to any Pennsylvania Acme, BJ’s, Giant, Price Chopper, Martins, Pathmark, Surefresh, or Trader Joe’s store and you freeze ground beef, you may have a problem.
Same for any Rhode Island shopper who goes to BJ’s, Shaw’s, or Trader Joe’s.

In Tennessee, you would have had to shop at Trader Joe’s.

In Vermont, its C&S and IGA shoppers who need to check their freezers.

Virginia BJ’s, Food Lion, Martins, and Trader Joe’s shoppers need to get involved.

West Virginia Martins and Food Lion beefeaters should take precautions.

And Food Lion shoppers in South Carolina should take warnings.