Monday, September 26, 2022

Patients in outbreak from HelloFresh meal kits spread from Washington to New Jersey

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The CDC reports that seven people across six states are sick with infections from E. coli O157:H7 linked to ground beef from HelloFresh meal kits.

A public alert from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) first reported the outbreak this past weekend, but the alert did not provide any patient details. 

Neither the FSIS nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported where the implicated meal kits were distributed. The outbreak patients live in Washington, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey.

The FSIS reported that a recall is not being initiated because it is believed that the suspect ground is no longer being sold in meal kits.

State and local health officials have interviewed six of the seven patients and all six reported eating ground beef from HelloFresh meal kits before becoming ill.

Officials are investigating to determine whether the ground beef was sold elsewhere. There is concern that consumers may have some of the HelloFresh ground beef in their freezers.

Consumers can use the following information to determine whether they have the implicated ground beef:

  • 10-oz. plastic vacuum-packed packages were distributed in a variety of HelloFresh meal kits. The beef was labeled “GROUND BEEF 85% LEAN/15% FAT.”
  • Packages have “EST.46841” inside the USDA inspection mark and “EST#46841 L1 22 155” or “EST#46841 L5 22 155” on the side of the packaging.

Of the seven outbreak patients, six have been so sick they had to be hospitalized. The patients range in age from 17 to 69 years old. Their illness onset dates range from June 8 through Aug. 17.

The CDC announcement says that additional people are likely sick because some may not have sought medical treatment. Also, paperwork and laboratory testing on others may not be complete yet, meaning that the CDC has not been able to add some patients to its outbreak tally.

Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. CDC PulseNet manages a national database of DNA fingerprints of bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses.

About E. coli infections
Anyone who has eaten any of the implicated ground beef and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 percent to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor. 

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients. 

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

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