Federal health officials say 14 people in six states have been sickened by the same strain of E. coli (O145) over the past couple of months.
Associated Press reports that the outbreak now includes 14 victims in six states: Georgia (5), Louisiana (4), Alabama (2), Tennessee (1), Florida (1) and California (1). Three people were hospitalized.
There is, as yet, no indication of the source of the outbreak. Dr. Raoult Ratard, Louisiana’s State Epidemiologist was quoted as having said that the little girl who died had visited a petting zoo, but that the other Louisiana victims had not. Investigators from the state visited the zoo, and determined that it follows all guidelines to safeguard its patrons from infection. Outbreak victims in Louisiana – and, presumably, the other affected states – are now being interviewed with a standard questionnaire to try to identify a common element to this rash of illnesses.
According to CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell, 14 cases of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O145 infection with the same DNA fingerprint were identified in six states. “Their illness onsets range from April 15 to May 12, 2012,” she said, adding that the most recent case was reported June 4. “Three ill persons have been hospitalized. One death has been reported in Louisiana.”
Health officials in several states are interviewing ill people to determine how they may have been exposed to the E. coli strain, one of several Shiga Toxin-producing E. coli — or STEC — varieties. The most common STEC is E. coli O157:H7, which is the potentially deadly strain commonly linked to ground beef. The strain of E. coli O145 is less common, but can be just as harmful. This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture began testing certain cuts of commercially produced beef for E. coli O145 and five other STEC strains that have the potential to cause serious illness and death.
People typically become ill between two and eight days after being infected. Most people develop diarrhea, including watery and bloody diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. Most people get better in a week, but some people — including children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems — can become seriously ill, developing a condition known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can cause kidney failure and death.
(Source — Multiple news organizations including Associated Press, CNN, MSNBC and CBS)
Contributed By: Michael “Mick” Guerini, Microbiologist and Technical Writer
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