The Michigan departments of Community Health (MDCH) and Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) are issuing a public health alert regarding illness shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (E. coli) from infections among people who have reported raw clover sprouts consumption in mid and southeast Michigan. At this time, MDCH is recommending that people avoid consumption of raw clover sprouts until further information about the origin of the contaminated sprouts is available.
Michigan currently has two confirmed E. coli O26 cases and five suspect cases. The illness onset dates range from February 6 – 12, 2012. All seven people reported consumption of raw sprouts at sandwich shops in mid and southeast Michigan. Of the seven cases, there have been two known hospitalizations. Those affected range in age from 19-50.
MDCH is working closely with local health departments, MDARD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine the source of the sprouts. The two confirmed Michigan cases have the same genetic fingerprint as cases reported earlier this month in a CDC-led investigation in other states that was linked to raw clover sprouts consumption at Jimmy John’s restaurants (http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2012/O26-02-12/index.html).
Sprouts are the germinating form of seeds and beans and are frequently eaten raw in sandwiches and salads. Past sprout-related outbreaks of foodborne illness have been linked to seeds contaminated by animal manure in the field, during storage, or as a result of poor hygienic practices in the production of sprouts. In addition, the warm and humid conditions required to grow sprouts are ideal for the rapid growth of bacteria.
E. coli O26 is a Shiga toxin-producing bacterium, similar to E. coli O157:H7. Illness caused by E. coli O26 can include symptoms of acute diarrhea, in particular, bloody diarrhea, and abdominal cramps with little or no fever. The illness usually lasts one week. In some people, especially young children, the elderly, or those who are immunocompromised, a more severe illness, such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), even death, is possible. Persons with HUS have kidney failure and often require dialysis and transfusions.
Anyone who has recently eaten raw sprouts and is experiencing symptoms should contact their healthcare provider and their local health department. For more food safety tips, visit www.michigan.gov/foodsafety.