north carolina.jpgPublic health officials have lowered, by two, the number of persons counted among the ill in an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that has been reportedly linked to this year’s North Carolina fair.  

According to a CNN report, the number of ill now includes 9 confirmed cases and 15 under investigation.   This total of 24 is two less than was being reported late last week.   While we are used to seeing outbreak totals grow, this is not surprising.   It appears the reduction in numbers relates to a refined criteria in identifying outbreak cases:

The revision comes as a result of new criteria applied to the outbreak, including lab evidence showing the same genetic fingerprint, whether patients have had symptoms since October 13 and whether patients attended the fair during the incubation period,” according to North Carolina Division of Public Health spokeswoman Julie Henry.

An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 sickened more than 100 visitors to the 2004 North Carolina fair.   An investigation into that large outbreak focused on a single “petting zoo,” and found that:

Findings from the case-control study, laboratory investigation and environmental sampling consistently associate most outbreak illnesses with exposures in Crossroads Farm Petting Zoo. These exposures probably resulted from a confluence of 1) animals shedding E. coli O157:H7, 2) intensive and extensive contact with animals, and 3) behaviors associated with very young ages. The age distribution of cases in this outbreak supports this conclusion given the level of contact possible and encouraged between young children and animals in this exhibit.

Marler Clark attorneys represented 11 of those sickened in the 2004 outbreak in a claim against the State of North Carolina at a trial earlier this year.  A ruling is still pending.