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Epidemiol Infect. Feb 1999; 122(1): 1–5.
PMCID: PMC2809580

Swimming-associated outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7.

Abstract

In 1997 the first outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections involving 14 cases occurred in Finland. A case was defined as a resident of Alavus with an episode of diarrhoea between 5 and 17 July 1997, and from whom E. coli O157:H7 was isolated from stool. The investigation included case searching and a population-based case control study. Five primary and eight symptomatic secondary cases of E. coli O157:H7 illness were detected. In the 10 days before the outbreak, all 5 primary patients (aged 3-8 years), but only 6 of 32 population controls from the same age range (Fisher's test, P < 0.001) and 4 of 10 sibling controls (P < 0.05) had visited (but had not necessarily bathed in) a shallow beach popular among young children. Four out of 5 primary cases had remained within 5 m of the beach while swimming and had swallowed lake water compared to 1 of 5 population controls. These analytical epidemiologic findings incriminated fresh lake water as the vehicle of E. coli O157:H7 transmission.

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