Contour-clamped homogeneous electric field pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (CHEF-PFGE) was used to compare Wisconsin isolates of Escherichia coli O157:H7, including 39 isolates from a 1994 day care center outbreak, 28 isolates from 18 individuals from the surrounding geographic area with sporadic cases occurring during the 3 months before the outbreak, and 3 isolates, collected in 1995, from patients with hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) who were from eastern Wisconsin counties other than those inhabited by the day care center and sporadic-case individuals. The technique of CHEF-PFGE using XbaI identified seven highly related restriction endonuclease digestion profiles (REDPs) (93 to 98% similarity) among the 39 day care center isolates and nine XbaI REDPs (63 to 93% similarity) among the 28 isolates from sporadic-case individuals, including REDP 33, which was exhibited by both day care and sporadic-case isolates. PFGE analyses of sequential E. coli O157:H7 isolates from symptomatic day care center attendees revealed that the REDPs of 25 isolates from eight patients were indistinguishable whereas the REDPs of 2 of 6 isolates from two patients differed slightly (93 to 95% similarity). The REDPs of the three isolates from 1995 HUS patients were 78 to 83% similar, with REDP 26 being exhibited by one HUS-associated isolate and an isolate from one day care attendee who did not develop HUS. The genes for both Shiga toxins I and II (stx1 and stx2, respectively) were detected in all but one isolate (sporadic case), and Shiga toxin production by the day care center isolates was not significantly different from that of the other isolates, including the three HUS-associated isolates. Analyses of E. coli O157:H7 isolates from both the day care center outbreak and sporadic cases by CHEF-PFGE permitted us to define the REDP variability of an outbreak and geographic region and demonstrated that the day care center outbreak and a HUS case in 1995 were caused by E. coli O157:H7 strains endemic to eastern Wisconsin.