E. coli on Seattle: Seattle-King County Public Health is investigated an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli(also known as STEC) associated with diarrhea and abdominal pain at Torero’s Mexican Restaurant in Renton.
We did not identify how STEC was spread within the restaurant. This is not uncommon for STEC outbreaks, because the bacteria can spread through contaminated food items, environmental surfaces, and from person to person. All of the cases had confirmatory testing indicating infections with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) via culture. All confirmed cases had the same strain of STEC, based on genetic fingerprinting (whole genome sequencing or WGS) at the Washington State Public Health Laboratory.
Since September 5, 2022, 3 people from 3 separate meal parties reported becoming ill after eating food from Torero’s Mexican Restaurant in Renton on September 3, 2022 and September 7, 2022. All of the people developed one or more symptoms consistent with STEC, including diarrhea (often bloody), abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting. We did not identify any ill employees.
Public Health conducted interviews with the people ill with STEC to identify potential common exposures. On September 29, 2022, Public Health identified Torero’s as a common food source for all three individuals.
Environmental Health Investigators visited the restaurant on September 30, 2022. Investigators identified inadequate handwashing facilities and improper storage of raw meats as potential risk factors for this outbreak. All critical violations were corrected during the inspection. On October 3, 2022, Environmental Health Investigators revisited the facility and ensured proper compliance with food handling practices.
No ill employees were identified at the time of the inspection. Investigators reviewed with restaurant management the requirement that ill staff are not allowed to work until they are symptom-free for at least 24 hours. Investigators provided education about preventing the spread of STEC — including proper handwashing, preventing bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods, and preventing cross contamination during food preparation.
Listeria in New York: As of November 9, 2022, 16 people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria have been reported from 6 states – California, Illinois, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey. Sick people’s samples were collected from April 17, 2021, to September 29, 2022.
Public health officials collect information about the age, ethnicity, and other demographics of sick people, and the types of foods they have eaten, to provide clues that can help identify the source of the outbreak. Sick people range in age from 38 to 92 years, with a median age of 74, and 62% are male. Of 13 people with ethnicity information available, 11 are of Eastern European background or speak Russian. Of 14 people with information available, 13 have been hospitalized. One person got sick during their pregnancy, resulting in pregnancy loss. Additionally, one death has been reported from Maryland.
State and local public health officials are interviewing people about the foods they ate in the month before they got sick. Of the 12 people interviewed, 11 reported eating meat or cheese from deli counters. Among seven sick people in New York, five bought sliced deli meat or cheese from at least one location of NetCost Market, a grocery store chain that sells international foods. Sick people from other states purchased deli meats or cheeses from other delis. Investigators do not believe that NetCost Market delis are the only source of illnesses because some sick people in the outbreak did not shop at a NetCost Market. A contaminated food likely introduced the outbreak strain of Listeria into delis in multiple states.
Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. CDC PulseNet manages a national database of DNA fingerprints of bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. DNA fingerprinting is performed on bacteria using a method called whole genome sequencing (WGS). WGS showed that bacteria from sick people’s samples are closely related genetically. This suggests that people in this outbreak got sick from the same food.
In 2021, health officials in New York state and New York City found the outbreak strain of Listeria in several environmental and food samples:
• Environmental samples from a NetCost Market deli in Brooklyn
• Several open packages of mortadella and ham that were sliced at the same NetCost Market deli in Brooklyn
• Sliced salami that a sick person bought from a NetCost Market deli in Staten Island
NetCost Market voluntarily closed the deli temporarily in Brooklyn after New York officials notified them about the sampling results. NetCost Market performed a deep cleaning and then reopened the deli in Brooklyn after further environmental testing did not identify Listeria.
In September 2022, the outbreak strain was found at the same Brooklyn NetCost Market deli; however, the most recent illness with NetCost Market exposure was in October 2021. After a deep cleaning, additional environmental testing did not identify Listeria in the deli.