The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Infection say that at least 19 people may have been infected by E. coli bacteria after eating rotisserie chicken salad sold at Costco Wholesale Corporation stores.
The infections occurred in seven states, with five people who were sick enough to need hospitalization. No deaths have been reported, but two individuals developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure that can lead to permanent damage to the kidneys and other organs. E. coli infections linked to the chicken salad have been reported in Montana, Utah, Colorado, California, Missouri, Virginia and Washington, the CDC said.
The size of the outbreak is expected to grow because foodborne illnesses take time to track. This is true especially when an outbreak is spread over a large region. It can take 3 to 7 days from the time of exposure to E. coli until symptoms appear. All but two of the sickened individuals said they ate the rotisserie chicken salad purchased from Costco.
Costco had stopped selling the chicken salad and posted signs in its stores. It is also cooperating with the CDC by providing its sales logs to help track people who bought the chicken salad and where the salad ingredients came from. Using this information, the CDC should be able to determine whether or not the outbreak is due to one ingredient in the salad. The CDC says that there is no evidence that any other Costco products are involved.
The strain of E. coli bacteria involved in this outbreak is O157:H7. The number of cases of HUS connected to this outbreak is twice what is normally seen with this strain of E. coli.
This outbreak is not related to the outbreak of E. coli food poisoning that was tied to the Chipotle chain of restaurants. That outbreak sickened 40 people and closed 43 restaurants in Washington and Oregon.
E. coli causes intestinal infections with symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting.