CDC, Others Investigating E. Coli Outbreak

Cases have been identified in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia as of April 4. The investigation includes infections recently reported by the Kentucky Department of Public Health, which announced March 29 that 20 Kentuckians had tested positive with a strain of E. coli O103.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several states, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O103 infections. Cases have been identified in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia as of April 4. The investigation includes infections recently reported by the Kentucky Department of Public Health, which announced March 29 that 20 Kentuckians had tested positive with a strain of E. coli O103, and some sort of food distribution was considered a likely mechanism for the outbreak there, which affected both children and adults. No deaths linked to the outbreak had been reported as of that date in Kentucky, but six people had been hospitalized.

KDPH said health care providers across the state have been notified of the outbreak and advised to be alert for patients experiencing acute diarrheal illness, which could be associated with E. coli.

CDC reported that no specific food item, grocery store, or restaurant chain had been identified as the source of infections as of April 5, with a total of 72 people in the five states reported ill as of April 4. The last reported illness began on March 29, and eight people in all have been hospitalized. No deaths and no cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (a type of kidney failure) had been reported.

People get sick from Shiga toxin-producing E. coli an average of three to four days after swallowing the germ. Most people get diarrhea (often bloody), severe stomach cramps, and vomiting. Most people recover within a week, but some illnesses can last longer and be more severe.

General ways you can prevent E. coli infection include good hand washing and cooking meats thoroughly. More information can be found here.

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