This outbreak was clearly linked to Ready Pac lettuce served in Taco Bell restaurants in the northeastern United States. As of December 14, 2006, Thursday, 71 persons with illness associated with the Taco Bell restaurant outbreak have been reported to CDC from 5 states: New Jersey (33), New York (22), Pennsylvania (13), Delaware (2), and South Carolina (1). States with Taco Bell restaurants where persons confirmed to have the outbreak strain have eaten are New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. (The patient from South Carolina ate at a Taco Bell restaurant in Pennsylvania). Other cases of illness are under investigation by state public health officials. Among these 71 ill persons, 53 (75%) were hospitalized and 8 (11%) developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). Illness onset dates have ranged from November 20 to December 6.

Cases in 52 of the 71 patients are confirmed, meaning that the patients’ E. coli O157:H7 strains have the outbreak “DNA fingerprint.” E. coli O157 strains are routinely “DNA fingerprinted” at public health laboratories in all states as part of PulseNet (the network of public health laboratories that sub-type bacteria). E. coli O157 strains from other cases are being tested by PulseNet. As a result of testing by PulseNet, cases with the outbreak strain “fingerprint” pattern are being re-classified as confirmed cases, and cases with an unrelated “fingerprint” pattern are being dropped from the outbreak case count.