Testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory in Atlanta has confirmed that the E. coli O157:H7 DNA fingerprint in a hamburger sample obtained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture from ConAgra Beef Co.’s Plant in Greeley matches the DNA fingerprint in specimens taken from 17 patients. Those patients became ill during the current E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Colorado.
Pam Shillam, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment epidemiologist who is leading the Colorado disease investigation, said the testing of the hamburger sample was conducted in Atlanta last weekend.
Testing conducted by the Department of Public Health and Environment’s laboratory in Denver also identified the same DNA fingerprint in hamburger purchased at a Colorado Safeway store by one of the persons who became ill in the outbreak.
Of the eight additional cases that have been awaiting final confirmation at the state laboratory in connection with the outbreak, two have tested negative for E. coli 0157:H7. Patient specimens have not yet been submitted in three others. Two were positive for E. coli 0157:H7 but the DNA fingerprinting has not been completed and the testing for E. coli 0157:H7 is pending in one case.
Of the 17 Colorado confirmed cases, one is from Arapahoe County; four, Boulder County; one, City and County of Broomfield; five, Douglas County; two, El Paso County; two, Jefferson County; one, Park County; and one, Teller County.
Four of 17 Colorado residents, who range from 1 to 72 years of age, required hospitalization. Those include an adult woman from the city and county of Broomfield, a two-year-old girl from Arapahoe County, a four-year-old boy from Boulder County and an eight-year-old boy from Douglas County. All have been released from the hospital, including the two-year-old who was released over the weekend.
A specimen taken from a seven-year-old South Dakota boy, who became ill at his home after consuming hamburger purchased at a supermarket there, also contained the same DNA fingerprint. The specimen was taken after the boy was brought to a Denver hospital for treatment. He since has been released.
Barbara Hruska, director of the Department of Public Health and Environment’s Consumer Protection Division, said, "Consumers should check their freezers to see if they have ground beef purchased at Safeway Stores with a ‘sell by’ date of (June 7) through (June 28). If so, they should not use the beef and can return it to the store of purchase for a refund."
ConAgra Beef Co. of Greeley issued a recall of the ground beef, which in Colorado had been sold primarily to Safeway Stores for retail sales, June 30.
Safeway issued a recall of the involved hamburger the next day, July 1.
State health officials also alerted customers of two supermarkets in Akron and Haxtun to check their freezers for ground beef with ‘sell by’ dates of June 7 to June 15. The ground beef in question was sold fresh and frozen at Haxtun Soopers, and fresh at O’Dell’s in Akron.
The product would have been labeled ’80 percent lean, 20 percent fat.’
Ground beef recalled by Safeway includes all ground beef, packaged in either white or yellow foam trays.
This includes 73 percent ground beef, 80 percent ground beef, 90 percent ground beef, 93 percent ground beef and ground sirloin.
E. coli O157:H7 can cause bloody diarrhea and intense abdominal cramps. Some individuals may develop Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, which usually requires hospitalization.
Children and the elderly especially are vulnerable.
Hruska reiterated the importance of cooking ground beef to 155 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the harmful bacteria.
"Cooking your hamburgers until they’re well done will kill E. coli O157:H7. The safest cooking method is to use a food thermometer to properly cook hamburgers by inserting the tip of the probe into the thickest part of the hamburger," she said.
For more information, call (303) 692-2700.