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Nineteen E. Coli Infections Linked to Costco Chicken Salad

Nov 30, 2015

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that at least 19 people in seven states may have been infected by E. coli after eating rotisserie chicken salad sold at Costco stores in the U.S.

Infections have been reported in Montana, Utah, Colorado, California, Missouri, Virginia and Washington, the CDC said. Five people have been hospitalized, Reuters reports. To date, no deaths have been reported, but two individuals developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a type of kidney failure that can lead to permanent organ damage.

The current number of HUS cases is twice what is normally seen with E. coli O157:H7, the pathogen identified in the outbreak, according to a Seattle food safety attorney, Reuters reports.

The Montana Public Health Laboratory tested a sample of celery and onion diced blend produced by Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. used in the Costco rotisserie chicken salad eaten by people who became ill in this outbreak. Preliminary results indicate the presence of E. coli O157:H7. Laboratory evidence indicates that 14 (88%) of 16 people purchased or ate rotisserie chicken salad from Costco in the week before their illnesses began. As a result of the preliminary laboratory results, on November 26, 2015, Taylor Farms voluntarily recalled multiple products containing celery because they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell any of the products recalled by Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. and consumers should not eat these products, the CDC advises.

E. coli is transmitted by food or water contaminated with animal or human feces. Infection can be prevented by safe preparation of foods and beverages that could be contaminated with the bacteria, as well as by frequent thorough hand washing.

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli strains are harmless and play an important role in a healthy human intestinal tract, according to the CDC. But some E. coli are pathogenic and can cause diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract.

The E. coli strains that cause illness can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons. Symptoms of the illness vary but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually is not very high (less than 101˚F). Most people recover within five to seven days, but the infection can be severe or even life-threatening and some people develop kidney and other complications. Symptoms usually emerge three to four days after exposure to the bacteria.

HUS can occur in people of any age but is most common in children under five, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. Symptoms can include fever, abdominal pain, pale skin tone, fatigue and irritability, small, unexplained bruises or bleeding from the nose and mouth, and decreased urination. People who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately, the CDC advises.

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