The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today that they are investigating another E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants. This new outbreak is a different strain of E. coli O26 bacteria from the older outbreak.
That ongoing, older outbreak of E. coli O26 linked to those restaurants has sickened at least 53 people in 9 states. One more ill person who is part of the older outbreak has been reported from Pennsylvania since the last update. But that person did not eat at Chipotle the week before November 14, 2015, when the illness started. In the older outbreak, 20 ill persons (38%) have been hospitalized. The case count by state in that outbreak is: California (3), Illinois (1), Maryland (1), Minnesota (2), New York (1), Ohio (3), Oregon (13), Pennsylvania (2), and Washington (27). The CDC says that reports to PulseNet of new illnesses in the older outbreak have “slowed substantially” since the peak of the outbreak in October 2015.
This newer outbreak is a rare DNA fingerprint of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O26. It is not known if these infections are related to the larger, previously reported outbreak, so these illnesses are not included in the case count for that outbreak.
The new outbreak case count is: Kansas (1), North Dakota (1), and Oklahoma (3). The illnesses started on dates ranging from November 18, 2015 to November 26, 2015. All five of those sickened ate at a Chipotle Mexican Grill the week before they got sick. All three sickened in Oklahoma ate at the same Chipotle restaurant in that state before they got sick. The person in North Dakota who was sickened ate at the same Chipotle restaurant as the ill person in Kansas.
The CDC is continuing laboratory surveillance though PulseNet to identify additional ill persons. Officials are using whole genome sequencing (WGS) to determine if the E. coli bacteria that has sickened people in the new outbreak is genetically related to the E. coli bacteria causing the older, larger outbreak.
The symptoms of an E. coli infection include diarrhea that is usually watery and/or bloody, severe abdominal cramps, a mild fever, nausea, and vomiting. If you ate at a Chipotle restaurant anywhere in the country and have experienced these symptoms, see your doctor.
An E. coli infection can be very serious and can cause death. If the infection is not treated properly, or is treated with antibiotics, or if the ill person is in a high risk group, the illness can progress to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), that can destroy the kidneys. The symptoms of HUS include little or no urine output, lethargy, pale skin, easy bruising, bleeding from the nose and mouth, and skin rash. If anyone is experiencing those symptoms, they should be taken to a doctor immediately.
State and local officials are interviewing ill persons to obtain information about foods they may have eaten and other exposures in the week before their illnesses began. To date, in the older outbreak, 46, or 88%, of the 52 persons interviewed ate at a Chipotle restaurant before they got sick. Investigators have not been able to find the bacteria through environmental samples taken at the restaurants in question or in food. It is very likely that the contaminated food that sickened people was eaten and discarded.