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October 4, 2002
Contact: CDC Media Relations
404-639-3286

Press Release

E.coli O157:H7 Outbreak Investigations

In conjunction with state and federal health officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been monitoring two outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 infections.

Outbreak 1
This outbreak was identified by the Wisconsin Division of Public Health (WDPH) following illnesses associated with a youth camping excursion. To date, 19 laboratory-confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection have been identified in Wisconsin. Dates of illness onset range from July 26 to September 1, 2002. An epidemiological investigation conducted by WDPH has implicated ground beef products as the vehicle of transmission. No ground beef samples potentially associated with this outbreak have been available for testing. State and federal health officials are working actively through CDC's PulseNet to determine whether additional cases in other states may be related to this outbreak.

Outbreak 2
This outbreak was identified by the WDPH through routine DNA fingerprinting of E. coli O157:H7 recovered from ill persons via PulseNet. DNA fingerprinting analysis indicates that the E. coli O157:H7 strain associated with this outbreak is different from the strain associated with Outbreak 1 (above). To date, 34 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection have been identified Wisconsin, including one case of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Eighteen additional cases with clinical isolates that match by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis have been identified in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York. Dates of illness onset range from August 19 to September 16, 2002; there have been no deaths reported.

Samples of ground beef recovered from patients in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New York have tested positive for the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7; an epidemiological investigation to assess ground beef exposure among other patients is ongoing. Based on a trace-back investigation conducted by Minnesota health officials and the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), EMMPACK Foods of Milwaukee voluntarily recalled 416,000 pounds of fresh and frozen ground beef products on September 27. These products were distributed to retail markets in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and institutional foodservice customers nationwide. On October 2, this recall was expanded to encompass approximately 2.8 million pounds of ground beef products distributed to retail markets and institutional foodservice customers nationwide. Detailed information for the expanded recall can be found at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/recalls/rnrfiles/rnr086-2002.htm.

If you have questions about whether ground beef you purchased was included in this recall, please contact the grocer or butcher from whom it was purchased. State and federal health officials are working actively through CDC's PulseNet to determine whether additional cases in other states may be related to this outbreak.

Persons who wish to reduce their risk of infection with E. coli O157:H7 should

  • Cook all ground beef and hamburger thoroughly (use a digital instant-read meat thermometer to ensure thorough cooking to an internal temperature of at least 160 F)
  • Avoid cross-contaminating other foods, utensils, and food preparation surfaces with juice from raw meat
  • Wash hands, counters, and utensils with hot soapy water after they touch raw meat
  • Consider purchasing irradiated ground beef

For more information about reducing your risk of foodborne illness, visit CDC's website at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/foodborneinfections_g.htm, US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service website at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov or the Partnership for Food Safety Education at: For more advice on cooking ground beef, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture web site at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/topics/gb.htm.

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CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national and international organizations.


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