CDC Struggles To Identify Source Of Multistate E. Coli Outbreak

Federal health officials are unable to identify the source of a multistate E. coli food poisoning outbreak, which has sickened nearly two dozen individuals across 12 different states.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an Investigation Notice on October 28, indicating an emerging outbreak has been linked to at least 23 illnesses, including at least 10 cases serious enough to result in hospitalizations. However, no root cause has been determined to date.

Officials have identified clusters of individuals across 12 states diagnosed with a similar strain of the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 infection. To date, illnesses have been reported in California, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

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According to the investigators, 23 illnesses have been reported between mid-August through October 8, 2020. Of the reported illnesses, two individuals have developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), which is a serious infection that could lead to kidney failure or even death.

Traceback and epidemiologic investigations have not been able to pinpoint any common food items that would determine the root cause of the outbreak, according to the CDC.

Due to the source being unknown at this time, a list of food handling recommendations were released by the agency that include thoroughly cooking meats, never cross-contaminating food preparation areas such as counters, cutting boards, and utensils, and to always wash fruits and vegetables before eating.

Officials are also asking consumers to wash their hands after using the restroom or changing diapers, and after contact with animals, as these are common sources of E. coli outbreaks.

E. coli is a foodborne bacteria that can lead to severe illness, including intestinal pain and diarrhea. It is commonly transmitted through contaminated water and uncooked food. People typically become sick from E. coli within 2 to 8 days of ingesting the bacteria.

Most people will begin to recover from infection within two weeks after receiving treatment from their doctor. For individuals like young children, the sick and the elderly, the consequences may be more severe due to weakened immune systems, potentially resulting in life threatening infections.

E. coli infections can become extremely dangerous due to the lack of effectiveness of antibiotics to treat the infection, and the time it takes to diagnose, often requiring a stool sample,. Treatment of E. coli infections with antibiotics have been found to possibly increase a patient’s risk of developing HUS, among other health consequences.

While the investigation continues, consumers are being encouraged to speak with their healthcare provider right away if they experience any symptoms of E. coli infection. It is recommended that a list of all foods eaten in the week prior be written down or recorded to report to your local or state health department to help assist in solving the outbreak.

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