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Public Health Rep. 2002 Jul-Aug;117(4):380-5.

A cluster of Escherichia coli O157: nonmotile infections associated with recreational exposure to lake water.

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California Epidemiologic Investigation Service, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, CA, USA.



To identify cases and determine risk factors for an outbreak of Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157: nonmotile (NM) infections in children attending a summer day care program in California.


The authors conducted a retrospective cohort study; the cohort comprised first and second graders who attended the day care program during the last week in August 1999. Shiga toxin testing and molecular subtyping using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis were performed on isolates. Lake water, lake bottom sediment samples, and waterfowl feces from the lake environs were cultured for E. coli O157.


Three cases of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157: NM infections with matching pulsed-field gel electrophoresis patterns and four probable cases were found. Children who swallowed more than a mouthful of water had a higher attack rate than those who swallowed less than a mouthful or none at all (43% vs. 10%, relative risk = 4.43, 95% confidence interval 1.12, 17.50).


E. coli O157: NM infections were associated with swallowing water from a freshwater lake. Potential sources of contamination include feces from humans, cattle, or deer. This outbreak illustrates the value in screening patients with diarrhea for E. coli O157, submitting isolates to public health laboratories, and using molecular techniques to identify related cases. Outbreaks associated with contaminated freshwater could be averted by prevention and early detection of contamination.

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