a1 Health Protection Agency, Health Protection Service, UK
a2 Health Protection Agency, Centre for Infections, London, UK
a3 Veterinary Laboratories Agency, UK
In the summer of 2009, an outbreak of verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli O157 (VTEC O157) was identified in visitors to a large petting farm in South East England. The peak attack rate was 6/1000 visitors, and highest in those aged <2 years (16/1000). We conducted a case-control study with associated microbiological investigations, on human, animal and environmental samples. We identified 93 cases; 65 primary, 13 secondary and 15 asymptomatic. Cases were more likely to have visited a specific barn, stayed for prolonged periods and be infrequent farm visitors. The causative organism was identified as VTEC O157 PT21/28 with the same VNTR profile as that isolated in faecal specimens from farm animals and the physical environment, mostly in the same barn. Contact with farm livestock, especially ruminants, should be urgently reviewed at the earliest suspicion of a farm-related VTEC O157 outbreak and appropriate risk management procedures implemented without delay.
(Accepted September 28 2011)
(Online publication November 18 2011)