E coli outbreak tied to ConAgra beef recall reaches 34 cases, with 1 death

Aug 5, 2002 (CIDRAP News) – The Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak linked with ground beef from ConAgra Beef in Greeley, Colo., has grown to 34 cases and claimed the life of an elderly woman, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Twenty cases in Colorado have been traced to ConAgra beef, and 14 cases in other states may be related to the recall and remain under investigation, Pavani Kalluri, MD, an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer with the CDC, told CIDRAP News. The woman who died was an Ohio resident, she said. Other states with cases include Alabama, California, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming.

ConAgra announced a 354,200-pound beef recall because of possible E coli O157:H7 contamination Jun 30, before any illnesses had been reported. After the outbreak was discovered and the US Department of Agriculture reviewed plant practices and company records, the company on Jul 19 expanded the recall to 18.6 million pounds.

A CDC statement issued Aug 2 said nine patients have been hospitalized in the outbreak and six have hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Kalluri said the woman who died became ill at the end of June; it was not clear whether she had HUS.

The 20 cases in Colorado have been linked with the ConAgra beef either by molecular fingerprinting (pulsed-field gel electrophoresis) or by epidemiologic investigation, according to Kalluri. But for cases in other states the connection is less clear and the investigation is ongoing, she said.

"To date we've only identified illness related to the initial [354,200-pound] recall with the production date of May 31," Kalluri said. No cases so far have been tied to the expanded recall.

The number of reported E coli cases has grown slowly since the outbreak was discovered. The CDC on Jul 19 reported 16 cases in Colorado and 6 possible cases in other states, for a total of 22. The total was increased to 26 on Jul 25 and to 32 on Aug 2.

See also:

CDC update issued Aug 2

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