ATLANTA – One child’s death and 14 illnesses have been linked to a mysterious and scattered outbreak of the E. coli O145 bacteria, officials announced on June 8, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added that no form of contaminated food or other cause has been identified in the illnesses, which occurred in April and May. CDC officials added they've seen no evidence that meat was the source of the new outbreak.
Of the three people hospitalized thus far, one child in the New Orleans area died two weeks ago.
Six states have reported illnesses – Georgia had five cases, Louisiana four, Alabama two, and Tennessee, Florida and California each had one.
The most deadly E. coli strain is considered to be E. coli O157:H7, which made many headlines in the early 1990s during a deadly outbreak associated with hamburger meat. Six similar E. coli strains are also considered dangerous, including E. coli O145. E. coli O145 hasn’t been tracked by health officials intensively for very long; just in 2009 did the CDC begin to recommend laboratories test for it.
"These are not newly emerging bacteria. Our awareness of them has been improving," said Stacey Bosch, who's leading the investigation into the outbreak for the CDC.
On June 4, Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) serogroups O26, O45, O103, O111, O121 and O145 began being treated as adulterants. FSIS said these serogroups are as dangerous as E. coli O157:H7 because they can cause severe illness and even death (Read “Counting down to expanded E. coli testing” in the May 31 edition of MEATPOULTRY.com for more on this topic.)