An E. coli outbreak linked to chicken salad sold Costco stores has sickened 19 people in seven states. Five people have been hospitalized; two of them have hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening complication that causes kidney failure, seizure, stroke and coma.
Consumers who purchased rotisserie chicken salad from any Costco store in the United States on or before November 20, 2015, should not eat it. Consumers who have purchased it should throw it away. On November 20, Costco told public health officials that it had removed all remaining rotisserie chicken salad from all of its U.S. stores and temporarily halted further production.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) and public health officials in several states are collaborating on the investigation. They are using the PulseNet system- a national subtyping database, to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak.
They have identified the genetic fingerprint of the E. coli strain but have not yet identified which ingredient in the salad that is contaminated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 (STEC O157:H7). The ingredients of the salad include rotisserie chicken, seasonings, water, eggs, celery and onions.
Symptoms of an E. coli infection include abdominal cramps and diarrhea that can be bloody. Anyone who ate the chicken salad and has these symptoms should see a doctor.
Symptoms of HUS, usually appear on the seventh or eight day of an E. coli infection include pale skin, lethargy, little or no urine output, unexplained bruises, and a skin rash. Anyone experiencing those symptoms should see a doctor immediately.
The case patients, who range in age from 5 to 84, reported onset of illness dates ranging from October 6 to November 3. Most of them began between October 22 and November 3. The median age for all case patients is 18. Fifty-seven percent of them are female. There have been no fatalities. By state, the case count is as follows: California (1), Colorado (4), Missouri (1), Montana (6), Utah (5), Virginia (1), and Washington (1). Outbreak updates will be provided as more information becomes available.
Prepared salads have been the source of other E. coli outbreaks. In 2013, an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak was linked to two kinds of pre-packaged, ready-to-eat salads made for Trader Joe’s grocery stores by Glass Onion Catering. Thirty three people were sickened; 28 of them were from California.
In 2014, tribal leaders of the the Fond du Lac Reservation in Minnesota were sickened by potato salad that was prepared by a catering company for a meeting. Sixty three people were sickened and nine people were hospitalized. Health officials identified contaminated celery as the source of that outbreak.
In July 2014, an E. coli O111 outbreak was linked to Oriental Chicken Salad served at Applebee’s. Fifteen people were sickened in that outbreak.