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Update: August 2, 2002
Contact: CDC, Division of Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

Backgrounder

On July 8, 2002, CDC was notified by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) of a cluster of cases of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infection. CDPHE has identified 20 cases of E. coli O157 infection, with onset dates between June 13 and 30, and isolates that are indistinguishable when tested by pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) using two enzymes. Based on patient interviews, molecular fingerprinting methods, and initial traceback, these cases have been associated with consumption of ground beef products voluntarily recalled by ConAgra Beef Company on June 30, 2002.

Using PulseNet and epidemiologic information, 12 additional cases of E. coli O157 infection that might be related to the Colorado cluster have been identified. Sick persons include residents of six other states including Alabama, California, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming.

Of these 32 cases, 9 persons have been hospitalized, 6 have hemolytic uremic syndrome, and 1 death.

PulseNet, CDC's National Molecular Subtyping Network for Foodborne Disease Surveillance consists of a network of public health laboratories that perform a DNA "fingerprinting" method called pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) on foodborne bacteria. The network permits rapid comparison of these fingerprint patterns through an electronic database.

CDC recommends that consumers refrigerate or freeze ground beef as soon as possible after purchase. Frozen ground beef should be thawed in the refrigerator and then cooked thoroughly to internal temperatures of at least 160 F. Consumers should use meat thermometers to ensure that internal temperatures are high enough to kill bacteria. To reduce the risk of cross-contamination, we recommend using soap and hot water to wash hands, utensils, and other surfaces that may have come into contact with raw or undercooked ground beef and other meat products.

For more information on E. coli O157:H7 visit http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/escherichiacoli_g.htm

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