In August 2008, a large outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O111:NM infections associated with a buffet-style restaurant in rural Oklahoma was identified. A case-control study of restaurant patrons and a retrospective cohort study of catered event attendees were conducted coupled with an environmental investigation to determine the outbreak's source and mode of transmission. Of 1823 persons interviewed, 341 (18·7%) met the outbreak case definition; 70 (20·5%) were hospitalized, 25 (7·3%) developed haemolytic uraemic syndrome, and one died. Multiple food items were significantly associated with illness by both bivariate and multivariate analyses, but none stood out as a predominant transmission vehicle. All water, food, and restaurant surface swabs, and stool cultures from nine ill employees were negative for the presence of Shiga toxin and E. coli O111:NM although epidemiological evidence suggested the outbreak resulted from cross-contamination of restaurant food from food preparation equipment or surfaces, or from an unidentified infected food handler.
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