The source of an unusual E. coli outbreak that has sickened 10 people in the Finger Lakes region of New York since early August has yet to be identified, Joan Ellison, Livingston County’s director of public health told Food Poisoning Bulletin today.
Nine Livingston County residents and one person from Onondaga County have developed E. coli infections over the last month. Three of them had cases so severe that they were hospitalized, but have since been released. Lab tests that use a genetic “fingerprinting” method called pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) have confirmed that eight of the cases patients were sickened by the same strain of E.coli 0157:H7. Test results for two case patients from Livingston County are pending.
While public health authorities have been able to identify the outbreak strain, they have not yet been able to identify a specific source of the outbreak. “There is a thread that connects them, but not a rope that ties them all together,” Ellison said. “It’s really hard to say where it’s coming from.”
The outbreak began in early August with a cluster of seven cases in Livingston County. Then, last week, new cases popped up, including one in a second county. “It’s kind of odd that we’re adding them sporadically,” Ellison said.
Symptoms of an E. coli infection include vomiting, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps which usually develop three to four days after exposure and last up to a week. Those most at risk are young children, seniors, people who take antacids on a regular basis and anyone whose immune system is compromised. The victims of this outbreak range in age from 10 to 75.