The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in conjunction with the US Dept of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is investing a multi-state outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (E. coli) O103 infections.
As of April 4, 72 people infected with the strain have been reported from five states: Kentucky, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia, with approximately half the number in Kentucky.
Some sort of food distribution was considered a likely mechanism for the outbreak there, which affected both children and adults.
This investigation is still ongoing and a specific food item, grocery store, or restaurant chain has not been identified as the source of infections.
CDC is not recommending that consumers avoid any particular food at this time. Restaurants and retailers are not advised to avoid serving or selling any particular food.
Symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infection vary for each person, but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting.
Some people may have a fever, which usually is not very high (less than 101˚F/38.5˚C). Most people get better within 5 to 7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.
The CDC is advising the public to take the following measures to avoid contracting the 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.
According to the CDC, 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.