by James Andrews | JUN 06, 2012
The E. coli O145 outbreak that killed a 21-month-old girl in New Orleans on May 31 is connected to at least 11 illnesses across the southern United States, multiple state health departments confirmed with Food Safety News today.
The Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Tennessee state health departments say they are working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the outbreak. The CDC has not yet released any other information related to the investigation, but a spokeswoman said states are in various stages of investigation while CDC plays a supportive organizing role.
So far, health officials do not know the source of the contamination, but many say the contamination vehicle is likely food. Food Safety News does not know if any other states may be involved in the investigation.
"At this time, we continue to interview new cases as we are notified of them," a Georgia health department spokeswoman wrote in an email. "We have detected no food items or environmental exposures that are statistically associated with illness at this time. This investigation is ongoing."
The confirmed cases are spread across the following states:
Georgia (5 illnesses), Louisiana (2 ill and 1 dead), Alabama (2 illnesses) and Florida (1 illness).
Officials in Alabama and Florida confirmed with Food Safety News that the pulse-field gel electrophoresis patterns -- the E. coli's DNA 'fingerprint' -- matched between the E. coli O145 clusters.
Additionally, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Health said that one Tennessee man had suffered an E. coli O145 infection around May 1, but he could not confirm if that infection was related to the outbreak in other states.
The confirmed outbreak illnesses appear to have first began in mid-April to early May.
As of June 4, E. coli O145 is one of the 'Big Six' E. coli strains now considered an adulterant in ground beef and non-intact beef products by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.