28 sick; multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to organic spinach and spring mix blend

CDC has now weighed in on the E. coli O157 outbreak linked to Wegman’s in New York that has sickened at least 28.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports 28 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 (STEC O157:H7) have been reported from five states, with most cases in New York.

42% of ill persons have been hospitalized. Two ill persons have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, and no deaths have been reported.

The outbreak was initially in New York. More recently, more ill persons in other states have been reported, and the investigation has expanded.

Collaborative investigation efforts of state, local, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicate that Wegmans brand Organic Spinach and Spring Mix blend produced by State Garden of Chelsea, Massachusetts, is one likely source of this outbreak.

Four leftover packages of Wegmans brand Organic Spinach and Spring Mix blend collected from four ill persons’ homes yielded the outbreak strain of STEC O157:H7.

On November 2, 2012, Wegmans recalled 5-ounce and 11-ounce packages of Organic Spinach and Spring Mix blendproduced by State Garden, because they may be contaminated with STEC O157:H7. The products were withdrawn from the market, and shoppers were notified.

CDC recommends that consumers do not eat recalled Wegmans brand Organic Spinach and Spring Mix blend and that they dispose of any remaining product in the home or return the product to a Wegmans store location.

Other brands of pre-packaged leafy greens have been reported by ill persons outside of New York. Investigations are ongoing to determine if other contaminated leafy greens are also a source of illness in this outbreak.

This PFGE pattern has very rarely been seen before in PulseNet. It has been seen only 7 times prior to this outbreak. Illnesses that occurred after October 30, 2012 might not be reported yet due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported.

Questions remain: why did Wegman’s issue a voluntary recall on Nov. 2, 2012, but CDC didn’t announce anything until Nov. 17, 2012 (and didn’t post it until today); was the spinach and spring mix actually produced in Massachusetts or just packaged there by State Garden and originated somewhere else; will State Garden now admit its product has been linked to illnesses after initially stating, “no illnesses have been confirmed as related to State Garden products.”

Epidemiology used to matter.

A table of leafy green related outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/leafy-greens-related-outbreaks.