According to news reports (link below), health officials from Georgia and CDC are investigating an outbreak of E. coli O145 that has made 14 ill across 6 southern states (GA, AL, TN, FL, CA and LA). One 21-month-old girl from New Orleans has died as a result of complications of infection. The source of this outbreak is not yet known.
E. coli O145, like the E. coli O157:H7 strains can cause severe diarrhea as well as damage kidney function. It has not been linked to as many outbreaks as the O157 strain, but was responsible for the 2010 outbreak linked to shredded romaine lettuce where there 26 confirmed cases and 7 probable. http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2010/ecoli_o145/index.html
USDA identifies this O145 strain along with O157 and 5 other STEC strains as adulterants and began testing for these strains on meat trimmings on June 4, 2012. From the USDA May 31st news release (below): “ The additional strains that will be treated as adulterants beginning today are Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) serogroups O26, O45, O103, O111, O121 and O145. Like E. coli O157:H7, these serogroups can cause severe illness and even death, and young children and the elderly are at highest risk.”
E. coli outbreak in six states sickens 14, kills childJune 8, 2012 1:21 PM CBS News Staff
(CBS/AP) - Health officials are investigating a mysterious and scattered outbreak of the E. coli bacteria linked to 14 illnesses and one death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said no form of contaminated food or other cause has been identified in the illnesses, which occurred in April and May. They are spread among six states.
Three people were hospitalized. One - a child in the New Orleans area - died last week. The Georgia Department of Public Health on Wednesday confirmed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the state has five confirmed cases with one sufferer needing hospitalization.
The outbreak strain is E. coli 0145, a dangerous but not well-known type of bacteria. The strain was fingered in a 2010 outbreak that sickened more than two dozen people in at least five states. The most commonly identified strain in North America is E. coli O157, and has been responsible for numerous outbreaks.
Some strains of E. coli are harmless, but others can cause serious and potentially lethal illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. E. coli infection typically causes stomach cramps, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), vomiting, and mild fever. Some kinds of E. coli can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses.
Symptoms typically appear within four days, though sometimes the "incubation period" can last a week.
USDA News Release
USDA Targeting Six Additional Strains of E.coli in Raw Beef Trim Starting Monday
Action represents another significant food safety measure under the Obama Administration http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2012/05/0171.xml
WASHINGTON, May 31, 2012 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) next week will begin instituting a zero-tolerance policy for six additional strains of E. coli that are responsible for human illness. Beginning Monday, FSIS will routinely test raw beef manufacturing trim, which is a major component of ground beef, for the six additional strains of E. coli. Trim found to be contaminated with these pathogens will not be allowed into commerce and will be subject to recall.
Illnesses due to E. coli serogroups other than O157:H7, which caused a high-profile illness outbreak in 1993, outnumber those attributed to O157:H7. FSIS declared O157:H7 an adulterant in 1994.
"These strains of E. coli are an emerging threat to human health and the steps we are taking today are entirely focused on preventing Americans from suffering foodborne illnesses," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "We cannot ignore the evidence that these pathogens are a threat in our nation's food supply."
The additional strains that will be treated as adulterants beginning today are Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) serogroups O26, O45, O103, O111, O121 and O145. Like E. coli O157:H7, these serogroups can cause severe illness and even death, and young children and the elderly are at highest risk.
Today's action is in addition to other significant public health measures FSIS has put in place during President Barack Obama's Administration to date to safeguard the food supply, prevent foodborne illness, and improve consumers' knowledge about the food they eat. These initiatives support the three core principles developed by the President's Food Safety Working Group: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery. Some of these actions include:
Test-and-hold policy that will significantly reduce consumer exposure to unsafe meat products, should the policy become final, because products cannot be released into commerce until Agency test results for dangerous contaminants are known.
Labeling requirements that provide better information to consumers about their food by requiring nutrition information for single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products and ground or chopped products.
Public Health Information System, a modernized, comprehensive database with information on public health trends and food safety violations at the nearly 6,100 plants FSIS regulates.
Performance standards for poultry establishments for continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens. After two years of enforcing the new standards, FSIS estimates that approximately 5,000 illnesses will be prevented each year under the new Campylobacter standards, and approximately 20,000 illnesses will be prevented under the revised Salmonella standards each year.