According to the Orange County Department of Health and multiple news sources, a 15th E. coli O157:H7 case has been confirmed in Southern California resulting from the person eating at the contaminated Orange County restaurant.
The restaurant in Lake Forest, California is the main target in this E. coli O157:H7 outbreak with 14 customers and 1 employee now testing positive for the pathogenic bacteria. All of these customers ate at the restaurant between March 23rd and March 25th. 10 children and five adults make up the split as to who got sick. Two kids have been hospitalized due to the bacteria with a 12-year-old girl recovering in intensive care.
We have been contacted by several of these customers, some who have been counted by the Health Department and some still in process. One older woman remains hospitalized with symptoms consistent with E. coli O157:H7 caused kidney failure. Although the 15 cases presently counted by the Health Department is the “official” number, it is most likely, based upon CDC statistics, to grow to at least 200 “probable” or “suspect” cases.
The food source has not yet been determined with the restaurant remaining closed. Investigators are now testing all 40 of the employees to try and find a link to where the E. coli O157:H7 actually came from. From past foodborne illness outbreaks tied to these types of buffet restaurants it will be unlikely that a specific food source will ever be found. This is the case because all of the food that made people ill has long been eaten or discarded. It is also true that when people eat at buffets they tend to eat multiple items thereby making it difficult for investigators to find a specific, common, food item.