The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) has identified an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), impacting at least 25 Chicago residents. As part of the CDPH investigation, Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill located at 300 W. 26th Street has been linked to the outbreak. Following a request from CDPH, Carbón closed voluntarily and is fully cooperating with the investigation. At least 5 individuals have been hospitalized as part of this outbreak. One of the leading symptoms caused by STEC is diarrhea, including bloody diarrhea. Infection can also lead to more serious complications.
CDPH recommends anyone who recently ate at the restaurant in question and is suffering these symptoms to see a medical provider for testing and inform them of the possibility of STEC.
“This is a serious condition that is treatable,” said CDPH Commissioner Julie Morita, M.D. “Anyone who believes they may be symptomatic and ate at this restaurant should see their medical provider immediately. CDPH is taking every precaution as part of our robust response in order to limit the impact of this outbreak.”
STEC can be transmitted through consumption of contaminated foods including undercooked beef, unpasteurized juice, raw milk and unwashed, raw produce. The menu items responsible for this outbreak have not yet been identified and the investigation is ongoing. Health officials continue to be onsite at the 300 W. 26th Street location and are also interviewing patients to rule out other possible exposures.
CDPH has also issued an alert to area physicians of the outbreak, providing medical guidance. Medical providers who suspect STEC should submit specimens for testing. Antibiotics and anti-diarrheal medicines should not be used to treat STEC as they may worsen symptoms. Medical experts instead encourage supportive medical care, including intravenous fluids, where necessary. Chicago providers must report diagnosed cases to the Chicago Department of Public Health.
As of June 28, 2016, 42 people infected with the outbreak strain of STEC O121 have been reported from 21 states – Alabama 1, Arkansas 1, Arizona 2, California 2 (up 1), Colorado 4, Iowa 1, Illinois, 4, Indiana 1 (New), Massachusetts 2, Maryland 1, Michigan 4, Minnesota 3, Missouri 1, Montana 2 (up 1), New York 1, Oklahoma 2, Pennsylvania 2, Texas 2, Virginia 2, Washington 3 (up 1), and Wisconsin 1.
Illnesses started on dates ranging from December 21, 2015 to June 8, 2016. Ill people range in age from 1 year to 95, with a median age of 18. Eighty-one percent of ill people are female. Eleven ill people have been hospitalized. No one has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure, and no deaths have been reported.
In June 2016, laboratory testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) isolated STEC O121 from samples of General Mills flour collected from the home of an ill person in Oklahoma. The STEC O121 isolated from the flour sample has the same PFGE pattern, or DNA fingerprint, as the outbreak strain. The flour collected in Oklahoma was not included in the initial General Mills recall.
In the same month, FDA identified STEC O121 in an open sample of General Mills flour collected from the homes of ill people in Colorado and Arizona. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) showed that the STEC O121 isolates from the flour samples were closely related genetically to the STEC O121 isolates from ill people. The flour sample that was tested came from lots of flour included in the initial recall announced by General Mills.
On July 1, 2016, General Mills expanded the recall to include some flours sold under the same brand names included in the initial recall: Gold Medal Flour, Gold Medal Wondra Flour, and Signature Kitchens Flour. CDC recommends that consumers, restaurants, and retailers do not use, serve, or sell the recalled flours.