The Crowne Plaza Staphylococcus Aureus outbreak occurred on July 17, 2011, during a Portland-based conference attended by approximately 2,400 county commissioners from across the country. Many were sickened by the harmful staph bacteria, which investigating health authorities conclusively determined was the food item that sickened dozens of people.

Here are the dirty details:  

  • All “affected patients” who investigators interviewed consumed eggs benedict at Crowne Plaza on July 17, 2011;
  • Stool specimens obtained from 2 people who were hospitalized as a result of their illnesses were positive for Staphylococcus Aureus;
  • Stool specimens from 5 Crowne Plaza kitchen employees tested positive for Staphylococcus Aureus;
  • No food tested positive for Staphylococcus Aureus, but the item identified as the outbreak vehicle—i.e. the eggs benedict—was not left over from the date the outbreak occurred, and the food item that caused these illnesses was, therefore, not available for testing;
  • Crowne Plaza records showed that 239 breakfasts were served the morning of July 17; of these, 12 were eggs benedict. Investigators successfully contacted 8 of the 12 and learned that 7 of those individuals fell ill with vomiting or diarrhea the same day. Further, the only individual who ordered eggs benedict and did not become ill had ordered the hollandaise sauce separately, and did not eat any of it;
  • Of the 7 individuals who became ill after eating eggs benedict from Crowne Plaza on July 17, 6 were conference attendees, and 1 was a flight attendant who had consumed no other meals in Portland during his or her trip;
  • Investigators interviewed 18 individuals who had eaten breakfast at Crowne Plaza on July 17 who did not order eggs benedict, and none of them became ill;
  • Eating hollandaise sauce, or any eggs benedict, were both highly associated with Staphylococcus Aureus on statistical analysis;
  • During investigators’ environmental analysis of the Crowne Plaza kitchen, it was discovered that the temperature of the hollandaise sauce was not monitored on the day the outbreak happened.

This is the anatomy of an outbreak investigation.  Failures occur, and people get sick as a result.