So, how useful is this information? This is from an actual case:
At first glance, it appeared that the E. coli O157:H7 infections experienced by two young girls whose parents retained us in 2010 were simply part of a small cluster of cases occurring in two California Counties. Both girls developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
As part of the routine case investigation, County A public health investigators learned that in October 2008 the two young girls had eaten at an unnamed restaurant located in County A. In neighboring County B, a man with an E. coli O157:H7 infection reported eating at the same unnamed restaurant located in County B in October 2008.
Genetic testing by pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) showed that the two young girls and the County B man were sickened with an indistinguishable strain of E. coli O157:H7, designated by PFGE pattern numbers EXHX01.4626/EXHA26.2558. The strain was so unusual that it triggered a cluster investigation. Federal officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assigned Cluster Identification Number 08100NEXH-1mlc to the investigation.
Through OutbreakNet, a national outbreak response unit staffed at the CDC, a fourth case-patient in the cluster was identified – a resident of South Dakota. This patient confirmed the association between illness and eating the same unnamed restaurant in County A in October 2008 while on vacation in County A. The two young girls and the South Dakota woman had symptom onsets within five days of eating at the unnamed restaurant.
Within a matter of days the outbreak grew beyond the confines of California County A and B and South Dakota. Public health laboratories continued to report PFGE matches of the unnamed restaurant strain of E. coli O157:H7. Case-patients were also identified in Illinois, Florida, New Jersey, and Ohio. These individuals reported other unnamed restaurant exposures – none ate at the unnamed California restaurants. This led investigators to suspect a contaminated ingredient was in the marketplace.
Canadian investigators also identified an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak involving 55 persons with at least 13 ill case patients culturing positive for the outbreak strain. The majority of cases were linked to one of two unnamed restaurants. Illnesses occurred in October 2008. Canadian investigators conducted a case-control study, and lettuce was statistically associated with illness. Product traceback showed that two restaurants tied to the outbreak shared a common produce supplier and that an unnamed brand of lettuce was the only lettuce in common to all Canadian restaurants with outbreak cases. The same lettuce was supplied to the unnamed restaurants in California Counties A and B.
Pretty useful information to consumers?
So, to those who thought that the only reason that I was complaining about the CDC’s and public healths’ non-disclosure of the name of “Mexican-style fast food restaurant chain, Restaurant Chain A” linked to Outbreak 1 and 2 and more recent Outbreak 3, think again. I can figure (with the help of Marler Clark lawyers and staff) these outbreaks out, and whom to sue, without the help of my friends at the CDC or local and state health departments.
So, seriously, will someone explain to the public the purpose of announcing a outbreak (the true case study I mention above was never even announced by public health), but not naming the restaurant?
And, for those who think that the CDC’s nondiclosure of “Mexican-style fast food restaurant chain, Restaurant Chain A” is that they are bending over to big business, think again, they do it to small – even “raw milk dairy A” – busineses. See, “Escherichia coli 0157:H7 Infections in Children Associated with Raw Milk and Raw Colostrum From Cows — California, 2006.”