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Public Health Rep. 2005 Mar-Apr;120(2):174-8.

Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with consumption of ground beef, June-July 2002.

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Tri-County Health Department, Greenwood Village, CO 80111, USA.



A case-control and environmental study tested the hypothesis that purchasing and eating ground beef from a specific source was the cause of a cluster of cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7 gastroenteritis.


A case-control study comparing risk factors was conducted over the telephone on nine case-patients with 23 selected controls. An environmental investigation was conducted that consisted of reviewing beef handling practices at a specific local supermarket and obtaining ground beef samples from the store and two households with case-patients.


The analysis of the case-control study showed that eight case-patients (89%) purchased ground beef at Grocery Chain A compared with four controls who did not develop illness (17%) (matched odds ratio=undefined; 95% confidence interval 2.8, infinity; p=0.006). The environmental investigation showed that Grocery Chain A received meat from Meatpacker A. Laboratory analysis of meat samples from Meatpacker A and Grocery Chain A and stool samples from some patients recovered an identical strain of E. coli O157:H7 according to pulse-field gel electrophoresis.


Both the case-control and environmental studies showed that purchasing ground beef at Grocery Chain A, which received ground beef from Meatpacker A, was the major risk factor for illness in eight case-patients; the ninth case-patient was found to be unrelated to the outbreak. Furthermore, meat from Meatpacker A was associated with a nationwide outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illness that resulted in the second largest recall of beef in U.S. history at the time.

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