State Health Department Finds Evidence of E. coli 0157:H7
Albany, September 10, 1999 — Using a type of DNA testing, scientists from the State Health Department's Wadsworth Laboratories have demonstrated the presence of a strain of toxic E. coli bacteria from water taken from a contaminated well on the Washington County Fairgrounds, State Health Commissioner Dr. Antonia C. Novello said today.
Evidence of the bacteria suspected to be responsible for the Capital District outbreak of E. coli infection came from water samples obtained from well number six which provided water to vendors on the west side of the fairgrounds, and to a nearby rest room.
To date, 611 cases or suspected or confirmed E. coli infection are under investigation. Eighty–five cases have been culture–confirmed through laboratory testing, and 58 people have been hospitalized. Eleven children developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), a severe complication of E. coli infection and one child died. Although case reports continue to increase as people consult with their doctors about past symptoms, health officials believe the outbreak of primary infection peaked last week.
As part of its ongoing outbreak investigation, the State Health Department obtained four follow–up samples of water from various sources on the fairgrounds, including well number six and pipe connections that fed vendor stands and a restroom.
Water samples were concentrated through a filtration process and bacteria collected through that process were inoculated into laboratory media for growing E. coli. Five molecular diagnostic tests, including polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a type of DNA testing, provided conclusive evidence of the 0157:H7 bacteria in samples from well number six.
Health Department scientists now continue working to obtain a DNA fingerprint of the 0157:H7 bacteria to compare to bacteria from patients. That process, called Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis, will take at least a week.9/10/99–110 OPA