Source for Hawaii E. coli outbreak unknown

E. coli

E. coli

Health department officials in Hawaii are trying to track down the source of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that has sickened nine.

Four people – one adult and three kids – have been hospitalized. The three children also developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a kidney disease that is associated with pathogenic E. coli infections, Food Safety News (FSN) reports.

Eight of the victims lived on Oahu while the ninth is from Canada. Investigators hope sorting through their individual food histories will yield clues as to the source of the outbreak, according to FSN.

The first reports of the outbreak occurred in February and continued into March.

E. coli O157:H7 is the most common cause of serious foodborne illness. It is a member of a group of E. coli known as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or STEC. These bacteria produce a toxin that can severely damage the kidneys (and cause HUS), and cause bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) implemented a new testing program for raw beef trim that tests for other STECs in addition to E. coli O157:H7, which already was considered an adulterant. Under the updated measure, the strains O26, O45, O103, O111, O121 and O145 also are considered adulterants, which means if they are detected in a product that product will not be considered fit for human consumption.

Also last year, 15 people in nine states were sickened by an E. coli O145 outbreak. A source for the outbreak was not identified.

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