September 30, 2023

Burma Superstar E. coli Outbreak Probed in San Francisco

At least 14 people have been sickened in San Francisco with E. coli O157:H7, including nine who ate at the popular Burma Superstar restaurant in the Inner Richmond neighborhood earlier this month. The E. coli outbreak, now under investigation by the San Francisco Department of Public Health and California Department of Public Health, prompted owner Desmond Tan to close the establishment for Labor Day weekend. At least one person has been hospitalized with kidney failure from a life-threatening complication of toxic E. coli infection known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS.

According to health department records, the investigation was first announced earlier this week with a public health alert that eight cases of presumptive Escherichia coli O157 had been reported, with one progressing from bloody diarrhea to full-borne HUS. At that time,  officials didn’t announce a common source. But statements to local media from health department officials on Friday noted the involvement of Burma Superstar, located on Clement Street near Fourth Avenue. Epidemiologists are continuing to try to pinpoint the cause, noting that five case patients did not report eating at the restaurant, which serves spicy Burmese and Chinese food.

E. coli O157:H7 infection causes diarrhea that is bloody and often accompanied by abdominal cramps and fever. There are different types of toxic E. coli that cause about a quarter of a million illnesses a year in the U.S. About 40 percent of those cases relate to E. coli O157:H7, a pathogen that is harbored in the guts of cows and other ruminant animals. The organisms are spread from fecal matter of the animals and from infected persons. You can get E. coli infections by eating foods containing the bacteria and the people who are most at risk for serious illness are children aged 5 and under and older adults or others who are living with weakened immune systems.

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