Background: Identification and control of multi-jurisdictional foodborne illness outbreaks can be complex because of their multidisciplinary nature and the number of investigative partners involved.
Objective: To describe the multi-jurisdictional outbreak response to an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Canada that highlights the importance of early notification and collaboration and the value of centralized interviewing.
Methods: Investigators from local, provincial and federal jurisdictions, using a national outbreak response protocol to clarify roles and responsibilities and facilitate collaboration, conducted a rapid investigation that included centralized re-interview of cases, descriptive methods, binomial probability, and traceback findings to identify the source of the outbreak.
Results: There were 31 laboratory confirmed cases identified in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ontario. Thirteen cases (42%) were hospitalized and one case (3%) developed hemolytic uremic syndrome; there were no deaths. Due to early notification a coordinated investigation was initiated before laboratory subtyping was available. Re-interview of cases identified 10 cases who had not initially reported exposure to the source of the outbreak. Less than one week after the Outbreak Investigation Coordinating Committee was formed, consumption of shredded lettuce from a fast food chain was identified as the likely source of the illnesses and the implicated importer/processor initiated a precautionary recall the same day.
Conclusion: This outbreak investigation highlights the importance of early notification, prompt re-interviewing and collaboration to rapidly identify the source of an outbreak.
Canada Communicable Disease Report CCDR
Tataryn J, Morton V, Cutler J, McDonald L, Whitfield Y, Billard B, Gad RR and Hexemer A