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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Nearly 4,200 Sickened and at least 50 Dead in E. coli O104:H4 Outbreak

The European Food Safety Authority reports as of July 4 – 892 HUS cases, including 32 deaths, and 3,281 non-HUS cases, including 17 deaths, have so far been reported. The table below shows the distribution of reported cases per country. Since the last update, Germany reports no additional HUS case, 48 additional non-HUS STEC cases. 24 EHEC and 2 HUS cases fell ill within the last 10 days (June 22- July 1). The last known date of illness onset in a patient with confirmed EHEC O104 was June 26, 2011. The last reported date of illness onset among all cases (also without O104 confirmation) was June 27, 2011. With regards to the outbreak in France (Bordeaux Region), eight cases of bloody diarrhoea and a further eight HUS cases have been identified as of 30 June. Infection with E. coli O104:H4 has been confirmed for six patients with HUS. Eleven of the patients had attended the event in Bègles, where nine reported having eaten sprouts; it concerns seven women and four men, between 31 and 64 years of age.

Screen shot 2011-07-04 at 9.45.24 AM.png A bit behind the times, the World Health Organization reports as of June 30 cases of and deaths from E. coli (EAggEC VTEC) O104:H4 infection since the beginning of the outbreak in Germany on 1 May 2011, now including the cases from the outbreak in the Bordeaux region of France. In total, 16 countries in Europe and North America have reported 4137 cases of E. coli O104:H4 infection, including 50 fatalities.

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Even further behind the times, the CDC reports as of June 22 that Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reports 823 patients with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)–a type of kidney failure that is associated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or STEC, infections–and 29 deaths associated with HUS.

In the United States, five confirmed cases and one suspect case of STEC O104:H4 infections have been identified; one death has been reported. Of these six cases, five recently traveled to Germany, where they were likely exposed. The bacterial isolates from the three HUS cases reported in Massachusetts, Michigan and Wisconsin, and two cases with Shiga toxin-positive diarrheal illness reported in Michigan and North Carolina, have been confirmed as matching the outbreak strain. The Michigan case with Shiga toxin-positive diarrheal illness did not travel to Germany, but likely acquired this infection through close contact with the Michigan case with HUS. Arizona has reported one death in a HUS case with recent travel to Germany. This case has not yet been confirmed to have STEC O104:H4 and is currently under investigation

I will be landing in Boston in a few hours to meet with the Massachusetts victim and his family.

With nearly 4,200 Sickened and at least 50 Dead in E. coli O104:H4 Outbreak in Europe (with some ill here in U.S. too), it might be easy to forget what has been happening here. Here is a sampler of E. coli Outbreaks in Idaho, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Washington:

Idaho – five staff workers at Camp Lutherhaven on Lake Coeur d’Alene tested positive for E. coli this week, but none have required hospitalization. Preliminary tests identified the bacteria in the five staff workers as Shiga Toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) Type 1. Further tests on one specimen indicate that it’s 026, the second most common type of STEC in Idaho.

Alabama – The Alabama Department of Public Health says the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Lee County has climbed to 15 illnesses with thirteen children and two adults now ill. Each of the victims either played in the Splash Park or swam in the pool at the Opelika SportsPlex and Aquatic Center between June 4 and June 22, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, and all have severe gastrointestinal illness.

Tennessee and Virginia – Reporter Mac McLean has been all over this story for weeks, but still has not found the cause of the E. coli outbreak that has sickened 17 and killed one. According to Mac, health officials in Northeast Tennessee and Western Virginia report that 18 people came down with a potentially fatal Escherichia coli infection between May 8 and June 2. Officials with the Virginia Department of Health have found some “similarities” between a potentially fatal strain of Escherichia coli bacteria that’s sickened Western Virginia residents over the past six weeks and one that’s affected people in Northeast Tennessee. “We are seeing some similarities in the strains from Virginia and Tennessee,” VDH spokesman Robert Parker said in an e-mail to the Bristol Herald Courier. “But nothing to link them in terms of transmission … no common source has been identified.”

Texas – Sixteen cases of E. coli O157:H7 in the Killeen, Texas, area have been traced to food served at a Jason’s Deli there in April, according to Bell County health officials. In addition to five confirmed cases there are 11 probable cases, said Christine Mann, spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Oklahoma – The Tulsa City-County Health Department said three children have been sickened by E. coli bacteria. Agency spokeswoman Melanie Christian said the department’s lab confirmed the cases in the children, who are under 10 years old. Christian said two of the children were hospitalized but one has gone home.

Louisiana – The Monroe Louisiana Newstar reports that three Ouachita Christian School students were admitted to local hospitals late last week afflicted with a strain of E. coli, according to health officials. Dr. Shelley Jones, Region 8 director of the Department of Health and Hospitals, said Tuesday the students were reportedly attending an end-of-the-year party at a farm. She said the affected students were playing in a mud pit.

Washington – An animal farm located in Everett, Washington has been implicated in a recent outbreak of E. coli among 2 children and 2 adults who recently visited the farm. The Seattle Times reports that the exact strain of E. coli has not yet been determined. The farm is run by the Everett park department and over 25,000 people visit it each year, where people can come into contact with a variety of animals, including sheep, calves, piglets, chickens, goats, ducks, a horse, a pony and rabbits.

  • Bill, I just finished reading “Poisoned”. What an amazing and horrific story. As a food safety professional, I’m astonished at the fact that 19 years later we are still faced with deaths from E. Coli. I know great strides have been made by the food industry to produce safe food, but when will the industry wake up and start doing everything necessary to stop these large outbreaks and deaths from happening?