In 2006, bagged fresh spinach contaminated with Escherichia coli O157:H7 caused about 200 cases of confirmed illness across the United States and at least 3 deaths. An investigation tracing the source of the contamination ultimately implicated domesticated animals, wildlife, and environmental factors.
The case was one of many highlighted at a November summit hosted by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, along with the One Health Commission, a nonprofit organization working to improve collaboration between the fields of human, animal, and ecosystem health. Lonnie King, MS, MPA, DVM, dean of the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Columbus, explained at the summit that scientists found genetically identical strains of E coli in both cattle raised near the spinach and in wild hogs. But it took the work of ecologists and hydrologists to explain that unusual weather conditions may have allowed animal feces tainted with E coli to contaminate ground water and the irrigation system on the affected farm.
Kuehn BM. Human, Animal, Ecosystem Health All Key to Curbing Emerging Infectious Diseases. JAMA. 2010;303(2):117-124. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1896