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Foodborne and Diarrheal Diseases Branch

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

Updated December 7, 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 1 PM (ET) December 7, 2006, Thursday, 58 cases associated with this outbreak have been reported to CDC from 6 states: New York (19), New Jersey (28), Pennsylvania (8), Delaware (1), South Carolina (1), and Utah (1). Other cases of E. coli O157 infection are under investigation by state public health officials. The vast majority of patients reported eating at a particular fast-food restaurant chain, Taco Bell. No specific food has been implicated yet.

Among the ill persons, 48 (83%) were hospitalized and 7 (12%) 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 and we expect additional cases to be identified in the coming days.

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, such as cultures, are needed to confirm the presence of E. coli O157.

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). Strains from some patients in this outbreak have been “fingerprinted,” and the analysis shows that the strains have matching “fingerprints,” indicating they may come from the same source. “Fingerprints” from other patients are being submitted to and analyzed by PulseNet. These results will help to determine the extent of the outbreak.

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:

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Page last modified December 7, 2006
Content source: National Center for Infectious Diseases

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