Epidemiology and Infection

Epidemiological investigation of the Central Scotland outbreak of Escherichia coli O157 infection, November to December 1996

J. M.  COWDEN  a1 c1, S.  AHMED  a2, M.  DONAGHY  a3 and A.  RILEY  a4
a1 Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health, Clifton House, Clifton Place, Glasgow G3 7LN
a2 Greater Glasgow Health Board (formerly CPHM Lanarkshire Health Board)
a3 Scottish Executive Department of Health (formerly CPHM Lanarkshire Health Board)
a4 Borders Health Board (formerly CPHM Forth Valley Health Board)


On Friday, 22 November 1996, the microbiologist at a hospital in Lanarkshire, Scotland, identified presumptive Escherichia coli O157 in faecal specimens submitted by three patients with bloody diarrhoea, and confirmed its presence in one. Over the next 6 h, 12 more potential cases were identified. Investigations first indicated then confirmed a single food premises as the source of infection. Effective control measures were applied promptly. The outbreak was declared over on 20 January 1997, by which time 512 cases had been identified, and infection with the outbreak strain confirmed in 279. Twenty deaths occurred in cases during the outbreak and there were two more in cases during 1997. Seventeen of these deaths resulted from the outbreak. This paper describes the outbreak's epidemiological investigation, referring to other investigations, and control measures, where appropriate.

(Accepted February 2 2001)

c1 Author for correspondence.