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Murray: “It is essential that we work together to identify the root cause of this outbreak and do everything we can to prevent them in the future.

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee wrote a letter to Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) expressing her concern over an outbreak of E.coli in Washington state associated with Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants. In the letter, Murray expressed appreciation for the CDC’s efforts to date to support state and local health officials’ response to the outbreak, and called for continued support to help ensure Washington state families are safe as officials continue to combat the outbreak.

“I write to express concern about the current outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in Washington state associated with Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants, and to express appreciation for the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) efforts to date in support of state and local health officials’ response. A swift and decisive local response is key to containing foodborne illness outbreaks, and the effectiveness of these actions is amplified when local and state officials can benefit from federal expertise at the CDC,” said Senator Murray. “It is essential that we work together to identify the root cause of this outbreak and do everything we can to prevent them in the future. Until we have the answers we need to ensure that Washington state families are safe from this threat, I urge you to maintain your essential support for our state and local health officials in combating this outbreak.”

Full text of the letter:

I write to express concern about the current outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in Washington state associated with Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants, and to express appreciation for the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) efforts to date in support of state and local health officials’ response. A swift and decisive local response is key to containing foodborne illness outbreaks, and the effectiveness of these actions is amplified when local and state officials can benefit from federal expertise at the CDC.

Shiga-toxin producing E.coli cause an estimated 265,000 infections in the United States per year. Between five and ten percent of people diagnosed with such infections develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which preferentially affects the very young and the elderly. As of November 6th, 28 people in Washington have been infected with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. Fourteen people in Washington and Oregon have been hospitalized. So far, there have been no reports of HUS, or deaths associated with the outbreak, yet, especially given our state’s past experiences with foodborne illness, I remain very concerned about this evolving public health situation.

Chipotle has voluntarily closed all of its restaurants in the state until more information can be gathered, but we do not yet know the exact origin or extent of the outbreak.

The continued laboratory surveillance, DNA fingerprinting, and food safety efforts critical to answering basic questions about the outbreak are largely contingent on continued assistance from the CDC, as well as aid from other federal partners, including the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture. It is essential that we work together to identify the root cause of this outbreak and do everything we can to prevent them in the future. Until we have the answers we need to ensure that Washington state families are safe from this threat, I urge you to maintain your essential support for our state and local health officials in combating this outbreak.

Thank you again the important work you do to keep our families safe from food-borne illness and other public health threats. Please keep me and my staff apprised as this situation continues to evolve.