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Peninsula Village E. coli Outbreak Lawsuit - Tennessee (1999)

On June 26, 1999, a child with a history of stomach pains and bloody diarrhea was admitted to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, where a stool specimen was obtained. The child was confirmed ill with an E. coli O157:H7 infection on June 28, and remained hospitalized for several weeks with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

At the time the child became ill with E. coli, she was living at Peninsula Village, a long and short-term treatment center for children. Once she was diagnosed with E. coli O157:H7, the infection control nurse at Peninsula Village interviewed patients and staff at the facility and learned that six other patients and three staff members had all experienced diarrhea in the seven days prior to the female patient’s onset of illness. Stool specimens were collected from all ill patients for laboratory testing.

On July 7, the Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH) East Tennessee Regional Office was notified that the specimen collected from another Peninsula Village patient was positive for E. coli O157:H7. The other patient – a male child – had gone to the Peninsula Village clinic with complaints of diarrhea on June 20 and again on June 25. Pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis of isolates obtained from the two patients showed that both were infected with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7.

TDOH initiated an outbreak investigation in an effort to identify the common exposure for the two Peninsula Village patients, and learned that the two had no personal contact with each other at any time before becoming ill. TDOH investigators further learned that the only common activity the two patients had participated in was eating food prepared in the Peninsula Village kitchen that was served in the dining hall.

Food histories obtained from the two patients showed that both had consumed ground beef meals prepared and served at Peninsula Village on June 19 and June 22. As the incubation period for E. coli O157:H7 ranges from one to ten days, either meal could have been the source of both children’s E. coli O157:H7 infections.

On August 6, 1999, TDOH released an outbreak report summarizing their investigation into the two children’s illnesses and concluded that the two Peninsula Village patients were infected by “a single common source of infection” and that a meal of ground beef prepared and served at Peninsula Village was the “best fit” as the likely source.

Marler Clark represented the female Peninsula Village patient in an E. coli claim against the facility. Her claim was resolved in 2006.

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