Misti Crane of the Columbus Dispatch, who keeps us all up-to-speed on the E. coli O145 outbreak in Ohio, Michigan, and New York, reported early this morning that the CDC is headed to Columbus.  Their purpose: to help identify the food item that has caused at least 47 people to become infected by E. coli O145 by conducting what is known as a case-control study–i.e. comparing the foods that suspected victims ate to the foods that people who did not get sick ate.

A four-member team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is expected to arrive Sunday to begin a study that might help solve the mystery of what made the people sick, Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Jen House said.

"There are similar investigations going on in other states," she said.

City, state and federal experts will conduct the study, in which they will compare people who were sickened with others who ate at the same places and did not get sick, said Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Teresa Long.

That work could help pinpoint what made people sick, even if laboratory tests of food samples don’t reveal anything.

Even when there are positive food samples – as was the case in 2008 with an outbreak involving ground beef – this type of study can be helpful, said Dr. Mysheika LeMaile-Williams, the city’s medical director.

"It makes for strong evidence to say, ‘This is the vehicle that is getting people sick.’"

Studies could be completed within days, if all goes well, Long said.