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Epidemiological information: E. coli O157:H7 illness in the Maritimes and Ontario

18 January 2013

What is epidemiology?

Epidemiology is the study of disease in a population. Epidemiologists, or “disease detectives,” use surveillance systems to identify those who are sick and confirm that the sick people are part of this event. They then gather information from the people who got sick and review the clues from all parts of the investigation that might reveal the cause of the illness event.

The figure and table below form part of the epidemiological investigation into this outbreak. An "epi curve" (Figure 1) is a valuable reference tool in any epidemiological investigation. An epi curve shows when cases begin, when they peak, and when they trail off. Certain details of the people who got sick (Table 1) also help epidemiologists as they work to solve the questions involved in foodborne illness.

Figure 1. Number of people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli

Figure 1

Text equivalent for figure 1

Table 1: At a Glance
Outbreak status Ongoing
Case count 30
Provinces/Territories 3
Deaths 0
Hospitalizations* 13
Cases with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) 1
Gender (m:f) 15:15
Age range in years 1-83
Recall YesExternal Link

* Verification conducted as part of the investigation has confirmed that 13 cases were hospitalized not 14, as previously noted.