Taco Bell E. coli Outbreak Probed
Cases in 6 States, More States Likely to Be Affected in Ongoing Outbreak
Dec. 8, 2006 -- The outbreak of diarrhea-causing E. coli among people
who ate at Taco Bell restaurants is widening, CDC and FDA officials say.
As of noon today, the outbreak -- focused in the Northeast -- had infected
63 people in six states. Nearly 80% of those have been hospitalized.
Seven of the infected have the most feared complication of E. coli
infection, a condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS. HUS is a
life-threatening problem that causes kidney failure.
So far, there have been no deaths in the current outbreak.
But it isn't over, warns the CDC's Christopher Braden, MD, a medical
epidemiologist with the National Center for Infectious Diseases.
"There are quite a number of ill persons under investigation in numerous
states," Braden said today at a joint FDA/CDC news conference. "The
information we have indicates that illnesses are still occurring. We consider
the outbreak to be ongoing."
It's not yet clear what food item was contaminated with E.
Rapid screening tests have implicated green onions, but those tests haven't
been confirmed, says David Acheson, MD, chief medical officer at the FDA's
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
"The common factor that has come out is that these people ate at Taco
Bell," Acheson said at the news conference. "What did not come out is
what they ate at Taco Bell -- is it the onions, the lettuce, the tomatoes, or
"What we are testing is fresh produce and cheese," he said.
Acheson praised Taco Bell Corp. for its full cooperation with FDA and CDC
However, he said it is up to state and local authorities -- not the FDA --
to decide whether the restaurants will be closed.
The outbreak is primarily in the Northeast. As of today, there have been 62
- 28 in New Jersey
- 21 in New York
- 9 in Pennsylvania
- 2 in Delaware
- 1 in South Carolina
- 1 in Utah
It's not yet known whether cases outside the Northeast are in people
infected during travel.