Fourteen people have so far been infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC) O145 across six US states, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The state of Georgia has been worst affected by the outbreak, having recorded five cases. Another four have been reported in Louisiana, two in Alabama and one each in California, Florida and Tennessee.
Of these, three have been hospitalised and one person has been reported dead in Louisiana.
Source not identified
“Based on interviews conducted to date, a source for these infections has not been identified. If a specific source is identified, public health officials will advise the public and take steps to prevent additional illnesses,” said the CDC website.
“State public health officials have been interviewing ill persons to obtain information regarding foods they might have eaten and other exposures in the week before illness. Based on interviews of 10 ill persons to date, a source for these infections has not been identified.”
The CDC is collaborating with public health officials in several states to investigate the outbreak, using DNA ‘fingerprints’ of E.coli bacteria to identify additional cases.
“Public health investigators are using DNA ‘fingerprints’ of E.coli bacteria obtained through diagnostic testing with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, or PFGE, to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak.”
The CDC website added that the STEC O145 PFGE pattern in this outbreak had not been seen before in PulseNet – the national subtyping network which collects information on the surveillance of foodborne infections.
Is it already over?
Illness among those infected began between 15 April and 12 May 2012 – suggesting that the outbreak could already have passed.
“Although this indicates that this outbreak could be over, CDC continues to work with state public health officials to identify additional cases and the source of these STEC O145 infections,” the CDC website added.