72 people in 5 states fall ill in mystery E. Coli outbreak

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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a mysterious outbreak of E. coli that has made dozens of people sick in several states.

As of Thursday, April 4, 72 people are infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O103 that has been reported from five states:

  • Georgia – 8
  • Kentucky – 36
  • Ohio – 5
  • Tennessee – 21
  • Virginia – 2

Eight people have been hospitalized. No cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome or deaths have been reported.

This investigation is still ongoing and no specific food item, grocery store, or restaurant chain has been identified as the source of infections.

CDC is not recommending that people avoid any particular food at this time. Restaurants and retailers are also not advised to avoid serving or selling any particular food.

Take action if you have symptoms of an E. coli infection:

  • Talk to your healthcare provider.
  • Write down what you ate in the week before you started to get sick.
  • Report your illness to the health department.
  • Assist public health investigators by answering questions about your illness.

Follow these general ways to prevent E. coli infection:

  • Wash your hands. Wash hands after using the restroom or changing diapers, before and after preparing or eating food, and after contact with animals.
  • Cook meats thoroughly to kill harmful germs. Cook steaks and roasts to at least 145˚F and let rest for 3 minutes after you remove meat from the grill or stove. Cook ground beef and pork to at least 160˚F. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the meat.
  • Don’t cross-contaminate food preparation areas. Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before eating, unless the package says the contents have been washed.
  • Avoid raw milk, other unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices.
  • Don’t prepare food or drink for others when you are sick.

Symptoms of E. coli Infection:

  • People usually get sick from Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after swallowing the germ.
  • Some people with a STEC infection may get a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
  • E. coli infection is usually diagnosed by testing a stool sample.
  • Antibiotics are not recommended for patients with suspected E. coli infections until diagnostic testing can be performed and E. coli infection is ruled out. Some studies have shown that administering antibiotics to patients with E. coli infections might increase their risk of developing HUS, and a benefit of treatment has not been clearly demonstrated.

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