CDC probes spring mix E. coli outbreak

The Centers for Disease Control is collaborating with public health officials in several states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157 (STEC O157 infections. Preliminary results from this ongoing investigation indicate that Wegmans brand Organic Spinach and Spring Mix blend produced by State Garden of Chelsea, Massachusetts, is one likely source of this outbreak.

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. They are using data from PulseNet, the national subtyping network made up of state and local public health laboratories and federal food regulatory laboratories that performs molecular surveillance of foodborne infections.

A total of 28 ill persons infected with the outbreak strain of STEC O157:H7 have been reported from five states: Connecticut (2), Massachusetts (2), New York (22), Pennsylvania (1), and Virginia (1).

Among persons for whom information is available, illness onset dates range from October 18 to November 3. Ill persons range in age from 4 years to 66 years. Among 24 ill persons with available information, 10 reported being hospitalized. Two ill persons have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.

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

Originally posted Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012

Tags: contamination outbreak, fda, food recall, food safety, spinach