John C. Cordell, Public Information Specialist with the Michigan Department of Corrections told Food Poisoning Bulletin that there is an outbreak of STEC, or Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, at the Saginaw Correctional Facility. The facility is quarantined with no prisoner transfers, no group programming or prisoner visitation.
So far, 89 prisoners and seven staff have been confirmed ill with the E. coli bacteria. Four prisoners have been hospitalized, but there are no cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome. The hospitalizations have been for dehydration.
Most cases occurred from August 27 to August 30, 2012. The outbreak may be over, since no cases were identified on September 3 or 4, 2012. The facility may be able to return to normal operations at the end of this week, since the incubation period for this type of bacteria is 3 to 10 days. The facility is also monitoring prisoners who transferred out of the prison to other correctional facilities in the days before the outbreak.
Public health officials are looking at all avenues of transmission, focusing on food and food preparation. The Saginaw County Health Department, the Michigan Department of Community Health, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture are assisting with the investigation.
STEC bacteria produce Shiga toxins, which go into the bloodstream and destroy red blood cells, causing anemia. The toxins can target the kidneys, which causes hemolytic uremic syndrome that can destroy that organ. The central nervous system can also be affected by Shiga toxins.