As I blogged about last year – “E. coli’s comeback: What’s with that?” – In 2007 in some 21 recalls, ground beef companies have recalled more than 33 million pounds of E. coli O157:H7 contaminated meat. 2008 has also seen recalls and we are just into the E. coli season. In 2007 hundreds have been sickened, including dozens of children who have undergone kidney dialysis as a result, some have died.

Now the Ohio E. coli outbreak is growing and has reached Michigan as well. The number of cases in Ohio are up to 16 cases, 10 are linked by genetic fingerprinting and public health investigators are working with clients to examine whether a common source of infection can be found. This genetic fingerprint also matches cases in Michigan.

• Delaware County: 1 case (confirmed)
• Fairfield County: 4 cases (three confirmed; one probable)
• Franklin County: 9 cases (four confirmed; five probable)
• Lucas County: 1 case (confirmed)
• Seneca County: 1 case (confirmed)

As I said yesterday, the Michigan Department of Community Health reported 29 E. coli cases statewide so far in June, well above the average of 10 cases for the entire month the past four years. Five people have been hospitalized.

In both the Ohio and Michigan cases, laboratory reports, including DNA analysis, suggest that ground beef is a common source of the bacteria in several of the individuals who were affected. It also appears that the DNA analysis has been linked to the ground beef recall of 13,275 pounds from New Jersey Dutch Meats on June 8.

E. coli O157:H7 bacteria are believed to mostly live in the intestines of cattle but have also been found in the intestines of chickens, deer, sheep, goats, and pigs. E. coli O157:H7 does not make the animals that carry it ill; the animals are merely the reservoir for the bacteria.

While the majority of foodborne illness outbreaks associated with E. coli O157:H7 have involved ground beef, such outbreaks have also involved unpasteurized apple and orange juice, unpasteurized milk, alfalfa sprouts, and water. An outbreak can also be caused by person-to-person transmission of the bacteria in homes and in settings like daycare centers, hospitals, and nursing homes. We are involved in representing families of children who have suffered from this bacterium. See Marler Clark E. coli Litigation for more information on past outbreaks.