2009 Utah Rodeos Outbreak
Utah state and local health officials and the CDC noted a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 cases in the summer of 2009. The illnesses were associated with attendance to rodeos, but not all the same one. The vast majority of the 14 cases (93%) had food histories containing ground beef, unsurprising for rodeo visitors.
However, a traceback on the meat products provided at the rodeos found no contamination. Environmental samples gathered at the rodeo sites and from the animals did reveal positive tests for the pathogenic bacterium. Genetic fingerprinting (both PFGE and MLVA) matched the environmental samples to those collected from the cases.
The bulls from all four rodeos attended by cases were from the same cattle supplier. The environmental samples that had the pathogenic bacteria were from the bull pens. Contaminated dust from these pens was determined to be the cause of the outbreak. In response, the health department recommended keeping livestock and manure separate from rodeo attendees to prevent future outbreaks.
In an article published in the October 2011 issue of Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, the authors state, “Public health officials should be aware of the potential for rodeo-associated STEC illness.”