The distribution of 3001 cases of verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) reported in the Province of Ontario, Canada, were examined to describe the magnitude of this condition geographically and to evaluate the spatial relationship between livestock density and human VTEC incidence using a Geographical Information System. Incidence of VTEC cases had a marked seasonal pattern with peaks in July. Areas with a relatively high incidence of VTEC cases were situated predominantly in areas of mixed agriculture. Spatial models indicated that cattle density had a positive and significant association with VTEC incidence of reported cases (P=0·000). An elevated risk of VTEC infection in a rural population could be associated with living in areas with high cattle density. Results of this study suggested that the importance of contact with cattle and the consumption of contaminated well water or locally produced food products may have been previously underestimated as risk factors for this condition.
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