Federal health officials said yesterday that 47 more people have been sickened in an Escherichia coli O103 outbreak with a suspected link to ground beef, and tests are under way to determine if recalled ground beef from K2D foods is the source of the outbreak.
Four more states report cases
In an outbreak update, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the 47 new cases boosts the outbreak total to 156 cases, with 4 more states reporting cases, expanding the outbreak to 10 states. The newly added states include Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, and Mississippi. The already-affected states are Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia.
The latest illness onset is Apr 7, and patients range in age from less than 1 year to 83. Fifty percent of them are female. Of 127 people with available information, 20 (16%) were hospitalized. No deaths or cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)—a potentially fatal kidney complication—have been reported.
In the epidemiologic investigation, interviews with 114 sick people found that 92 patients (81%) had eaten ground beef, a significantly higher percentage than results from a survey of healthy people found. In an earlier update, the CDC said sick people ate ground beef from several different grocery stores and restaurants and that many bought large trays or chubs of ground beef from grocery stores.
The CDC said the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and state officials are continuing their trace-back investigations to find the source of raw ground beef supplied to grocery stores and restaurants where the sick people ate, but so far a common distributor hasn't been found.
E coli O103 in unopened ground beef
Meanwhile, in a related development, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said yesterday that K2D Foods, doing business as Colorado Premium Foods in Carrolton, Georgia, is recalling 113,424 pounds of raw ground beef products that may be contaminated with E coli O103.
Unopened intact ground beef collected from a restaurant where many of the people sickened in the outbreak ate tested positive for E coli O103, but so far there is no definitive link between the product that tested positive and the ongoing E coli outbreak. More testing is under way to determine if the recalled ground beef is related to the outbreak.
The USDA said the raw ground beef products were produced on Mar 26, Mar 29, Apr 2, Apr 5, Apr 10, and Apr 12. The recall applies to two 24-lb vacuum-packed packages in cardboard boxes containing "ground beef puck" with use through dates ranging from Apr 14 through Apr 30.
The products bear the establishment number "EST 51308" inside the USDA inspection mark on the boxes and were shipped to distributors in Port Orange, Florida, and Norcross, Georgia, for further distribution to restaurants.
The USDA said it's worried that some product may be in restaurant refrigerators or freezers, and it urged the establishments to not serve them, throw the products away, or to return them to the place of purchase.
The agency notes that clinical labs don't typically test for non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E coli (STEC) types such as O103, because they are harder to identify. And though patients infected with O103 can develop diarrhea and vomiting that can be lengthy and severe, most recover in a week and HUS is uncommon.
Apr 23 CDC outbreak update
Apr 23 USDA FSIS recall notice
Apr 12 CIDRAP News story "CDC ties ground beef to E coli outbreak, but source still unknown"