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Are Massachusetts E. coli Cases Linked To Multi-State Outbreak?

Outbreaks of E. coli 0157:H7 continue around the country with the latest coming in Massachusetts where at least six people are sick and beef is the suspected source of the illness.

Both the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the United States Department of Agriculture investigated over the weekend.

State officials said a source of contamination has not been identified, however the cluster of illnesses may be linked to the consumption of beef products. The cases appear to be caused by the same strain of the bacteria found in patients from several other states.

Massachusetts and USDA officials are working identify a possible source of contamination. The investigation is focused on ground beef, and testing of samples collected from several stores will be conducted this week.

Also according to the Boston Channel:

The Massachusetts cases range in age from three to 60 years. They include residents of Middlesex, Suffolk and Essex counties. They reported becoming ill between July 10 and 16. At least five of the cases were hospitalized.

These cases may be linked to 20 other cases in several states and Quebec that were caused by the same strain of E. coli.

The Massachusetts cases were linked by DNA testing and by comparing those results to results from others around the country through a federal foodborne illness surveillance program called PulseNet.

According to the CDC, 54 confirmed cases have been linked both epidemiologically and by molecular fingerprinting to the Nebraska Beef outbreak. The number of cases in each state is as follows: Georgia (4), Indiana (3), Kentucky (1), Michigan (22), New York (1), Ohio (21), Utah (1) and West Virginia (1). Their illnesses began between May 27 and July 1, 2008. 28 persons have been hospitalized. One patient developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). No deaths have been reported.

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