Federal health officials told CNN today 14 people in six states have been sickened by the same strain of E. coli over the past couple of months.
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. "Three ill persons have been hospitalized. One death has been reported in Louisiana."
Cases have been reported in Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama and Florida, according to local health departments and media reports. The CDC would not reveal which other two states were reporting cases.
Georgia is reporting five cases, the most in one state.
"Four of five are female, and their ages range from 18 to 52, with a median of 34. Illness onsets range from (April 15-28); one case was hospitalized overnight for this illness, and no cases have died," said Suleima Salgado, deputy director of communications for the Georgia Department of Public Health.
The cases in Georgia have been mild, according to Dr. J. Patrick O'Neal, who heads the Division of Health Protection within the Georgia Department of Public Health.
He said Thursday, "I don't think there's need for great concern. I think awareness, yes, concern, no. We have outbreaks of various diarrheal diseases quite frequently."
E. coli can have an incubation period of as little as one day and as long as 10 days after exposure. According to the CDC, "the symptoms often begin slowly with mild belly pain or non-bloody diarrhea that worsens over several days." So investigators are dependent on people accurately remembering what they may have eaten or come into contact with before they got sick.
State health officials say last month three people in the New Orleans area contracted E. coli bacteria. One of them recently died from the illness.
The funeral for 21-month-old Maelan Elizabeth Graffagnini was held Monday. Now the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has some partial answers.
Two other adults in the New Orleans area were also sickened by the same strain of E. coli linked to a multi-state outbreak.
But Tuesday night, state health officials are discounting speculation that in this new case, the bacteria was contracted from animals at the Audubon petting zoo. They say their scientific investigation shows otherwise.
Dr. Raoult Ratard, who is the state epidemiologist, wrote in a statement: "Contact with a petting zoo can be ruled out due to the fact that no cases, except one, had contact with the local petting zoo. The likely exposure is a food source but this has yet to be confirmed."
According to Dr. Gary Balsamo, state public health veterinarian and assistant state epidemiologist in the Office of Public Health, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, "Three cases of toxigenic E. coli were reported to DHH in May 2012 in the greater New Orleans area. These cases all have the same 'DNA fingerprints.' They are part of a CDC cluster of cases coming from several southern states. The CDC investigation has not yet identified the common source. Rumors that the strain are coming from petting zoos appear to be unfounded."
The affected products, Ground Beef Reg. and Ground Beef Lean, were sold in plastic bags of varying weight on May 31, 2012 from the Kabul Farms store located at 255 Dundas Street West, Mississauga, Ontario. The packages bear a sticker with the product name, the store's name and the price.
Consumers are advised to contact the retailer if you are unsure as to whether you have the affected beef products stored in your home freezer.
There have been no confirmed illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.
Touro family physician Dr. Meredith Maxwell says, "If you look at a hamburger and it's really pink, you could be at increased risk for E. coli, so you need to make sure your hamburger meat is cooked through and through.”
“There are not any other reported cases at this time. We don’t consider this to be an active outbreak,” said Worcester Public Health Director Derek Brindisi, noting a public health nurse will retrace what foods the boy consumed, where he traveled and to what animals and water sources he had been exposed. “We will try to get a clear picture of how he became ill.”
The state Department of Public Health confirmed yesterday that little Owen Carrignan was exposed to E. coli. He died Saturday from complications of hemolytic-uremic syndrome, or kidney failure, a disease associated with E. coli infection.
The family, who buried Owen yesterday, said memorial contributions can be made to the Owen E. Carrignan Sports Scholarship for a deserving Millbury High School student, c/o Millbury Federal Credit Union, 50 Main St., Millbury, MA 0152
A 6-year-old boy has died from hemolytic uremic syndrome in Millbury, Mass., near Boston, and state health officials are investigating the possibility of foodborne illness.
“The symptoms reported may be indicative of a foodborne illness, and is currently under epidemiologic investigation,” according to an e-mail Wednesday evening from Anne Roach, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
The Boston Globe reportsthe death certificate for the boy lists his name as Owen Carrignan. He died around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at the UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, according to Derek Brindisi, director of Worcester’s Public Health Department.
“All the signs pointed to E. coli,” said Shawn Carrignan, 37, Owen’s father, late Wednesday night. “Basically, he went over to a friend’s house Saturday night, we don’t know what he ate, but the next day he had a stomachache.”
Carrignan said Owen became continuously worse before he died on Saturday.
A wake for the boy was held in Millbury on Wednesday night, he said.
“He was the best at every sport,” Carrignan said. “You couldn’t slow him down. I’d play with him eight, nine hours and you couldn’t wear him down. He was my youngest. It was always about me and him. He was incredible.”
“The whole family has been devastated,” said Bob Carrignan, 69, Owen’s grandfather, Wednesday night. “It’s heartbreaking. He had everything going. He wasn’t just about sports. He was just a wonderful kid.”
A Japanese chain serving raw beef tried the tactic in an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year that sickened 20 people, and now a positive sample in South Carolina – no people sick – has triggered diverse responses.
On May18, 2012, two South Carolina companies, Lancaster Frozen Foods and G&W Inc. announced they were recalling nearly 7,000 pounds of ground beef after a state testing program found an E. coli O157 positive sample (there was no mention of a possible connection with the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in early May at a restaurant in South Carolina that sickened 11 people, but outbreaks do focus the attention of public health folks).
The Charlotte Observer reported the SC meat originated from an Australian packing plant, and that the companies no longer buy beef from the Australian company.
A few days later the story popped up throughout Australia, with meat types insisting the meat was safe and noting that more than 70 Australian plants are certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to export meat and poultry.
Meat and Livestock Australia Ltd. said in January that one of the "major hurdles for Australian exports to the U.S. in 2012" would be increased non-O157 E. coli testing requirements. MLA estimated Australia's beef exports to the U.S. in 2011 were valued at A$744 million.
The U.S. is Australia’s second largest export market for beef and its largest export market for lamb.
Seek and ye shall find: increased testing means increased positives, and it’s going to take diplomatic skills and data to better understand what a positive means.
In the short-term, blame the foreigners will remain politically appealing: Australia does it, U.S. does it, Canada does it, every country in Europe does it.