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Foodborne and Diarrheal Diseases Branch

Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O157 Infections,
November-December 2006

Updated December 10, 2006


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NOTE: This document is provided for historical purposes. The content of this document has not been revised since its original release and therefore may no longer be up to date.

As of 12 PM (ET) December 10, 2006, Sunday, 61 persons with illness associated with the Taco Bell restaurant outbreak have been reported to CDC from 5 states: New Jersey (28), New York (21), Pennsylvania (9), Delaware (2), and South Carolina (1). States with Taco Bell restaurants where persons confirmed to have the outbreak strain have eaten are New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. (The patient from South Carolina ate at a Taco Bell restaurant in Pennsylvania.) Other cases of illness are under investigation by state public health officials. No specific food has been implicated yet.

Among these 61 ill persons, 50 (82%) were hospitalized and 7 (11%) developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). Illness onset dates have ranged from November 20 to December 2. The risk to the public is considered ongoing.

Cases in 20 of the 61 patients are confirmed, meaning that the patients’ E. coli O157 strains have the outbreak “DNA fingerprint.” E. coli O157 strains are routinely “DNA fingerprinted” at public health laboratories in all states as part of PulseNet (the network of public health laboratories that sub-type bacteria). E. coli O157 strains from other cases are being tested by PulseNet. As a result of testing by PulseNet, cases with the outbreak strain “fingerprint” pattern are being re-classified as confirmed cases, and cases with an unrelated “fingerprint” pattern are being dropped from the outbreak case count.

Several laboratories are testing food samples from Taco Bell restaurants. Some tests have indicated the possible presence of E. coli O157 in samples of green onions. These results are considered preliminary and unconfirmed because additional tests are needed to confirm the presence of E. coli O157 and whether it has a “fingerprint” pattern that matches the one from patients.

CDC is working with state and local health officials, FDA, USDA, and the fast food chain to investigate the outbreak and to help take action to protect the public.

E. coli O157 causes diarrhea that is often bloody and accompanied by severe abdominal cramps, but fever is typically absent or mild. Persons who have developed such symptoms after eating at a Taco Bell restaurant in an affected state are advised to consult a physician and to inform their local health department.

For more information on E. coli infection, please refer to the following website:

Page last modified December 10, 2006
Content source: National Center for Infectious Diseases

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