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Entries in E. Coli (4)

Friday
Jun082012

Officials Race Against the Clock as E. Coli Cases Rise

S. Lowry/Univ Ulster(WASHINGTON) -- As the number of E. coli cases climbs to 11 across four southern states, Georgia officials who say they're just beginning their investigation are now racing against the clock to solve these mysterious food poisonings before the epidemic spreads further.

"We know that these cases are all linked, and that would suggest that there was a common source somewhere along the way," J. Patrick O'Neal of the Georgia Department of Health told ABC News.  "We just don't know where."

The death of an infant in New Orleans last week has been linked to at least 10 other cases of E. coli illness in Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Alabama.  The largest cluster of five sickened people, ranging in age from 18 to 52, is centered in Atlanta, home to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Maelan Elizabeth Graffagnini was 21 months old when she died last Thursday at a hospital in New Orleans. Two others in the New Orleans area were also recently stricken by the same strain of E. coli, known as 0145.

"The death of a young child is always difficult, and it serves as a reminder of how serious E. coli is," said Dr. Takeisha Davis of the Louisiana Health Department.

Alabama public health officials have linked two cases to this outbreak.  And in Florida, a 22-year-old woman's illness has been traced to the same dangerous bacterium.

Aside from the E. coli strain, all these cases have in common is that officials still have no idea what caused the illnesses.

"They are racing against the clock, they want to figure out what the product is, and get it out of the market before it sickens or kills anyone else," said Bill Marler, a food safety attorney.

Epidemiologists at the CDC's headquarters are poring over data sent in from the states in search of a common factor that could pinpoint a cause.

"The likely exposure is a food source," Louisiana Department of Health spokesman Tom Gasparoli said.  "But this has yet to be confirmed.  Often, the contact source is not found."

E. coli are a common bacteria and not every strain is dangerous.  But some, like those that carry the 0145 genetic fingerprint that is behind this outbreak, produce a deadly toxin known as shiga.  This poison can cause violent reactions, including severe kidney damage and death.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun072012

E. Coli Outbreak in Four Southern States

S. Lowry/Univ Ulster(WASHINGTON) -- The nation’s top disease hunters are racing to solve a mysterious outbreak that is unfolding right in their own backyard.

The death of an infant in New Orleans last week has been linked to at least 10 other cases of E. coli illness in four southern states. The largest cluster of five sickened people, ranging in age from 18 to 52, is centered around Atlanta, home to the Centers for Disease Control.

“At this time, we continue to interview new cases as we are notified of them,” Georgia’s Department of Public Health spokeswoman Nicole Price said via e-mail. “We have detected no food items or environmental exposures that are statistically associated with illness at this time.  This investigation is ongoing."

Maelan Elizabeth Graffagnini was just 21-months-old when she died last Thursday at a hospital in New Orleans. Two others in the New Orleans area also recently were stricken by the same strain of E. coli, known as 0154.

Alabama public health officials have linked two cases to this outbreak. And in Florida, a 22-year-old woman’s illness has been traced to the same dangerous bacterium.

Aside from the E. coli strain, the only other thing these cases have in common: officials still have no idea what caused the illnesses.  

“The likely exposure is a food source,” New Orleans Department of Health spokesman Tom Gasparoli said. “But this has yet to be confirmed. Often, the contact source is not found.”

Epidemiologists at CDC headquarters are poring over data sent in from the states in search of a common factor that could pinpoint a cause.

For any E. coli outbreak at this time of year, suspicions immediately turn to undercooked ground beef. The period from April through September is what scientists call "high-prevalence season" for E. coli.

E. coli are a common bacteria and not every strain is dangerous. But some, like those that carry the 0145 genetic fingerprint that is behind this outbreak, produce a deadly toxin known as shiga. This poison can cause violent reactions, including severe kidney damage and death.

Until this week, the government was not checking meat for the 0145 strain. Just this week, the USDA for the first time began testing meat for six new strains of E. coli – including the strain is causing this outbreak.

In an unrelated case, a 6-year-old boy in the Boston area died last week from kidney failure caused by E. coli. Massachusetts health officials said scientists have determined that case was not caused by the same strain of E. coli as the clusters in the South. Officials in Tennessee say a recent E. coli case in that state also is unconnected.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun012011

E. Coli Outbreak Baffles Experts, Reaches US

Duncan Smith/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The source of an alarming E. coli outbreak in Europe that has so far left 17 people dead and more than 1,500 sick has baffled experts who warn the outbreak is more severe than anything they've ever seen from the bacteria.

The strain has hit eight countries in Europe, but has been concentrated in Germany. At least two cases have surfaced in the U.S.

"This strain of E. Coli seems to be particularly virulent and also antibiotic resistant," said Dr. Ann Marie Kimball, professor of epidemiology and health sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health. "It is a toxin producing strain which causes kidney shut down and apparently higher mortality."

Despite a massive medical dragnet, the culprit for the outbreak has not yet been determined. The initial suspect was cucumbers from Spain, but tests have discounted that the vegetable was responsible for carrying the bacteria. Tomatoes and lettuce are also being tested.

Because the source of the outbreak is still unknown, it is possible that tainted products could be unknowingly transported into the U.S., warned Dr. William Schaffner, chair of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

"Bacteria do not need a passport," said Schaffner. "There already have been a couple of cases in the U.S. The patients had traveled to Hamburg, returned to the U.S. where they became ill. This could happen again and the E. Coli could be transmitted to family, friends and others in the U.S."

"Fortunately, this is not very likely if the source is fresh produce because not much of that is imported into the U.S. food supply from Europe," he said.

Most E. Coli strains are harmless, but those that do cause sickness usually trigger bouts of diarrhea, fever and vomiting. In the bacteria's most serious and severe form, the infection causes hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a condition which attacks the kidneys and can cause stroke, seizure, coma and death.

German officials said this particular strain is a common bacteria found the digestive systems of mammals, including cows and humans.

In a typical outbreak, about 1 to 2 percent of those affected suffer from HUS. Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said that it will be important to decipher whether there is something unusual about this particular agent which is causing a higher percentage of people to suffer from HUS -- or the outbreak is just extremely widespread.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov052010

Cheese Warning for Gouda Sold at Costco in Five States

Image Courtesy - Bravo Farms(SILVER SPRING, Md.) -- The Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration are warning people not to eat a certain kind of cheese sold at Costco stores in five states.  It may be linked to a small E. coli outbreak that has sickened about two dozen people in five western states.  Costco is working with the federal government to track the possible outbreak.

People in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada have been affected and authorities suspect the Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda cheese sold and offered as samples at Costco stores in those states.  It's listed as Costco item 40654 and if you have any of it, you are advised to take it back to the place you bought it or dispose of it in a sealed container.

Most people infected with this strain of E. coli develop diarrhea and abdominal cramps, but some illnesses may last longer and can be more severe. While most people recover within a week, some may develop a severe infection.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio