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A sharp rise in the number of patients with infectious gastroenteritis was observed in the 25th week of year 1996 in the Takahashi-Ashin district by researchers with the Infectious Disease Surveillance Program for tuberculosis and other infectious diseases in the Okayama Prefecture. This sharp rise occurred coincidentally with an outbreak of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7 (EHEC O157) infection in Niimi City of the Takahashi-Ashin district. However, this phenomenon of coincidental outbreaks was not observed during the outbreak of EHEC O157 infection in Oku Cho. By reviewing outpatients' charts in a sentinel hospital in Niimi City for the Infectious Disease Surveillance Program, it was noted that patients with acute gastrointestinal infection visiting the hospital during the increased incidence of infectious gastroenteritis may have been included as misclassified cases of EHEC O157 infection. On the other hand, the exponential probability plotting of symptomatic patients with EHEC O157 infection in Niimi City revealed a breaking point which suggested a dual exposure to contaminated food or an overlap with other acute gastrointestinal infections. The latter possibility was discounted, because stool culture-positive patients with EHEC O157 infection also exhibited a similar breaking point, and furthermore, the coincidental increase in infectious gastroenteritis in the same area was attributable to the EHEC O157 infection. The present study demonstrates the association between the sharp rise in gastroenteritis and the outbreak of EHEC O157 in the Takahashi-Ashin district. A careful analysis of the cases of infectious gastroenteritis by the Infectious Disease Surveillance Program would have predicted the outbreak of EHEC O157.
enterohemorrhangic Escherichia coli O157 infection
Acta Medica Okayama
Okayama University Medical School
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