Officials with Public Health – Seattle & King County report investigating a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) outbreak that has sickened four and hospitalized one to date. The outbreak has been linked to two eateries on the Nintendo of America campus in Redmond (I Love Sushi and Sodexo’s Café Mario).

E. coli/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
E. coli/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

According to health officials, since early this month, two King and two Snohomish County residents have tested positive for STEC. The four ill people, suffering from symptoms including abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea, consumed food from Café Mario on multiple days during June 18–22, 2018; one ill person also ate at I Love Sushi on June 19 and June 26, 2018, which is a food establishment that operates out of Café Mario once a week.

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Three of the four people who got sick tested positive for STEC by a healthcare provider. Further testing at the Washington State Public Health Laboratory is pending, including determining the genetic fingerprint and specific strain of STEC that caused the illnesses.

After inspections were performed early last week and potential risk factors were identified and corrective actions discussed,  Public Health – Seattle & King County Environmental Health investigators closed Café Mario and the onsite I Love Sushi food services. Both restaurants will remain closed until approved to reopen by Public Health.

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STEC are strains of E. coli that produce Shiga toxin (such as E. coli O157:H7) and can cause serious illness in people.

Infection with STEC can occur through consumption of undercooked ground beef and other beef products; unpasteurized (raw) milk, cheese, and juice; contaminated raw fruits, vegetables, sprouts and herbs; water contaminated with animal feces, or by direct contact with farm animals or their environment. Ready-to-eat foods can also be contaminated with STEC through contact with raw beef or raw beef juices in the kitchen.

Symptoms of STEC include diarrhea (which often becomes bloody) and stomach cramps, with mild or no fever. Illness typically lasts several days and people can spread infection to others even after symptoms resolve.