Web updates on outbreaks from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are like those old “paint by numbers” sets.   Sometimes it takes several passes, but eventually the picture is filled out pretty well.

In its fifth and final update on the multi-state outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to eating raw refrigerated pre-packaged cookie dough CDC all but wraps a bow around Nestle Toll House products.

“In an epidemiologic study, ill persons answered questions about foods consumed during the days before becoming ill and investigators compared their responses to those of persons of similar age and gender previously reported to State Health Departments with other illnesses,” the CDC update says. “Preliminary results of this investigation indicate a strong association with eating raw prepackaged cookie dough. Most patients reported eating refrigerated prepackaged Nestle Toll House cookie dough products raw.“On June 29, 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that a culture of a sample of prepackaged Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough currently under recall yielded E. coli O157:H7,” CDC continues.  “The contaminated sample was collected at the firm on June 25, 2009. Further laboratory testing showed that the strain in the sample was not the outbreak strain. E. coli O157:H7 has not been previously associated with eating raw cookie dough…”

As of ten days ago, health departments in 31 states working with CDC and FDA, has counted 80 confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 with the particular DNA match associated with the Nestle outbreak.

Most persons became ill during May and June. Ill persons range in age from 2 to 65 years; however, 66 percent are less than 19 years old; 69 percent  are female. Thirty-five persons have been hospitalized, ten developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).  

Multiple lawsuits have already been filed against Nestle. Marler Clark, which represents victims of food-borne illnesses throughout the United States , represents 24 sickened by E. coli O157:H7 including six with HUS with all the illnesses linked to the Nestle outbreak. The Seattle-based firm has filed with courts in Colorado, California and Washington State.