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Delaware Health Alert Network #126

December 7, 2006 11:00 AM

Health Alert

The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) is investigating the illness of two people which may be related to the current East Coast outbreak of E.coli 0157:H7 associated with food consumption at Taco Bell restaurants. The probable case is a New Castle County resident who consumed food at a New Jersey Taco Bell. The suspect case is also a New Castle County resident that became ill after consuming food at a Taco Bell in Wilmington, Delaware. These cases are considered probable and suspect because laboratory confirmation is pending.

DPH Surveillance

DPH's Bureau of Epidemiology is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and neighboring state health departments on the investigation of E. coli cases associated with Taco Bell. DPH, Bureau of Epidemiology investigates all reported cases of enteric disease and is currently enhancing their surveillance to rapidly identify additional cases. Hospitals in Delaware have also been asked to enhance their surveillance to detect additional cases.


Cases of E.coli 0157:H7 is required to be reported by health care providers to DPH in accordance with Delaware Title 16. Please immediately report possible E.coli cases to DPH's Bureau of Epidemiology at 1-888-295-5156.

DPH Diagnostic Testing

Delaware Public Health Laboratory can perform clinical and food testing for E.coli 0157:H7. Human testing methods include culture and shiga-toxin testing by enzyme immuno assay (EIA). Food can also be cultured, which must be coordinated by Epidemiology. Please contact the Bureau of Epidemiology at 1-888-295-5156 to arrange for any such testing.

Clinical Description

The E.coli 0157:H7 bacterium causes diarrhea that is often bloody and accompanied by abdominal cramps. Fever is absent or mild. The illness typically resolves within a week. However, some people, especially young children and the elderly, develop the hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS.


The regional E.coli outbreak began mid-November in New Jersey. As of December 6, 2006 there have been 43 probable and 34 suspect cases in 5 states (New Jersey - 27, New York - 30, Pennsylvania- 16, Connecticut- 2 and Delaware -2) All of these cases reported eating at a Taco Bell restaurant from November 15, 2006 to present. The regional epidemiologic investigation is ongoing and has not yet definitively identified a common source of exposure.


All Taco Bells in Delaware have been inspected by DPH and will be voluntarily closing by noon today. DPH will monitor the closing and associated actions.

For Further Information

  • For questions about E.coli 0157:H7 contact the Bureau of Epidemiology at 1-888-295-5156 or 302-744-4541

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Categories of Health Alert messages:

  • Health Alert: Conveys the highest level of importance; warrants immediate action or attention.
  • Health Advisory: Provides important information for a specific incident or situation; may not require immediate action.
  • Health Update: Provides updated information regarding an incident or situation; unlikely to require immediate action.
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