April 24, 2019

Michigan E. coli Outbreak Linked to Ambassador Restaurant in Houghton

The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department is investigating an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that has sickened 7 people, 4 of whom have been hospitalized. Those sickened became ill over the Christmas holidays after eating at The Ambassador, a restaurant in Houghton, Michigan, that the health department has linked to the outbreak.

Initially 3 local and 2 non-local cases were identified. Investigation has led to the identification of two additional cases. The identified cases are 2 people from Dickinson County, MI, one from Wisconsin, and 4 from Copper Country, which includes all of Keweenaw County, MI and most of Houghton, Baraga and Ontonagon counties. Four of the people were hospitalized.

The health department has determined that the likely source of the outbreak was an ill food-handler at The Ambassador, a Houghton restaurant.

“Such an investigation is a routine part of health department operations,” said Dr. Terry Frankovich, M.D. “The cases came to light earlier this month and health department staff have been conducting interviews with the ill individuals to look for exposures they might have in common. All of the cases have now been linked through the restaurant.”

According to Dr. Frankovich, “Occasional, single cases of E coli diarrhea occur sporadically, but it is unusual to have a cluster of cases at the same time. Public health investigates clusters of disease or illness to make sure that there is no on-going risk of illness and to make sure prevention efforts are in place.”

E. coli O157:H7 can cause serious illness and death, particularly if the E. coli victims develops hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which occurs in about 8% of infections. Persons with HUS generally suffer renal failure and require dialysis and transfusions.

The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department asks that anyone who became ill with bloody diarrhea in late December or early January contact the health department at 906-482-7382, Monday through Friday, 8 am-4 pm. Ill individuals should contact their healthcare provider.

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