Health officials say ground beef is the likely source of an outbreak of food poisoning that has sickened more than 100 people in six states. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday said that no suppliers, distributors or brands of meat has been identified.
The CDC says people can continue to eat ground beef. The meat should be cooked through 160 degrees to kill the germs.
The epidemic began in early March. Up to now, 109 people have been infected withO103, an unusual strain of the bacterium. They reported eating ground beef at home and at the restaurant.
Seventeen people were hospitalized. Nobody died. Half of the cases are in Kentucky. The others are Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.
This is the third largest epidemic of E. Coli in several states reported for 20 years, said the CDC.
Escherichia coli (abbreviated E. coli) are bacteria found in the environment, food and intestines of humans and animals.
Although many strains of E. Coli are harmless, others can cause illness after food contamination.
E. coli has caused many recalls of romaine lettuce over the past year, butin January. Spinach, ground beef and flour have also been implicated in E. coli outbreaks.
People are usually afflicted with E. Coli two to eight days after swallowing the germ. Symptoms include diarrhea, which can be bloody, severe stomach cramps and vomiting.
E. coli infections usually disappear within a week, but more severe cases can result in a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
The symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, pale skin, fatigue and irritability, unexplained bruising or bleeding from the nose and mouth and decreased urination. These complications are more common in young children under 5, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.
Anyone with these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.
The CDC recommends the following steps to reduce the risk of E. coli infections:
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after using the toilet or changing diapers, before and after the preparation or consumption of food and after contact with animals.
- Cook meat thoroughly to kill harmful germs. Steaks and roasts should be cooked to at least 145 ° F. Let stand 3 minutes after removing meat from grill or oven. Cook ground beef and pork at least 160 ° F. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the meat.
- Do not cross-contaminate food preparation areas by washing hands, countertops, cutting boards and utensils thoroughly after touching raw meat.
- Wash fruits and vegetables before eating, unless the packaging indicates that the contents have been washed.
- Avoid raw milk, other unpasteurized dairy products and unpasteurized juices.
- Do not prepare food or drink for others when you are sick.