E. coli O145 outbreak appears over; often illnesses are never traced to a specific source

There are few absolutes when it comes to linking illnesses. A lot of food safety management decisions are based on best guesses, probabilities and estimations. And sometimes there isn’t enough information available for epidemiologists to link illnesses to a common source.

For the past few weeks state and federal health folks have been trying to figure out what 15 people from Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and California who have been ill with E. coli O145 have in common. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced today that they don’t know. But it appears that whatever the source was is no longer in the marketplace.

According to David Beasley at Reuters,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not yet identified the source of the bacteria but said it has been six weeks since the last patient became ill.

"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 the E.coli, the agency said in a statement.

The CDC confirmed an additional case of illness in Louisiana from Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli 0145, a strain of a large group of bacteria commonly abbreviated as E.coli.

That is the same type of E.coli that killed a Louisiana child in May and since April 15 has sickened people in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and California. Four of the patients were hospitalized.

The latest reported victim was sickened April 21, but health officials delayed officially connecting that illness to the outbreak because the E.coli that caused the patient’s infection was slightly different than the others, said Dr. Raoult Ratard, Louisiana’s state epidemiologist.

Louisiana health officials initially thought the child who died from the bacteria might have been infected after visiting a petting zoo. But that theory was dropped because none of the ill adults had been to the zoo.

The additional reported victim from Louisiana also had no connection with the petting zoo, Ratard said.
There have been no reported cases of illness from the strain that have developed in the country after May 12, the CDC said.


This entry was posted in Food Safety Culture and tagged , , by Ben Chapman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.