Health officials are struggling to find the cause of an E. coli food poisoning outbreak that has sickened at least 23 people in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
Investigators from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have not yet released an identity on the possible cause of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that has rapidly spread through the area, but say they are fairly certain that it is food-related. Out of the 23 illnesses reported so far, at least six people have been hospitalized.
One local Schnucks grocery story in Richmond Heights has voluntarily pulled some of its fresh produce and restocked its salad bar, but store officials say that it was done as a precautionary measure and say they have received no indication that food from the store is linked to the illnesses.
Hospitals in the St. Louis, Missouri, metropolitan area began reporting a high number of E. coli illnesses earlier this week and local officials became concerned. In 2010 there was a total of 10 E. coli food poisoning infections reported in the area. Reports this week alone are more than twice that number.
Another 21 possible E. coli food poisoning illnesses are being investigated in North Carolina. That outbreak has left at least four children hospitalized. Of the nine cases that have been confirmed, eight of the victims had attended the state fair. That outbreak is not believed to have any link to the St. Louis area illnesses.
E. coli O157:H7 is one of the more common causes of food poisoning in the United States. When left untreated, it can lead to dehydration and potentially life-threatening illness. While most healthy adults recover from food poisoning caused by E. coli within a few weeks, young children and the elderly could be at risk for more severe illness. If the toxin enters the blood stream, E. coli could also lead to kidney failure known as Hemolytic-Urenia Syndrome (HUS).