More people are sick from a multistate outbreak of E. coli from an unknown source, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. The total number of people infected is now 96. That’s 24 more than the agency initially reported on Friday.
Symptoms of E. coli, which usually begin about three or four days after consuming the bacteria, can include watery or bloody diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting.
Eleven people involved in the mysterious outbreak have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. People started becoming ill March 2. The people with the most recently reported illnesses began experiencing symptoms on March 26. The patients range in age from 1 to 81 years old. Additional illnesses tied to this outbreak may still be reported, the CDC said.
The states reporting cases of E. coli illness linked to this outbreak are Georgia (17 patients), Kentucky (46), Ohio (5), Tennessee (26) and Virginia (2).
Federal health officials have not identified a food item, grocery store or restaurant chain as the source of these infections. The CDC, state health departments, the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the US Food and Drug Administration are investigating the outbreak.
Follow these general ways to prevent E. coli infection, according to the CDC:
- 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 ground beef, pork, and lamb to at least 160˚F. Cook steaks and roasts to at least 145˚F and let rest for 3 minutes after you remove meat from the grill or stove. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the meat.
- Keep raw meats separate from foods that won’t be cooked before eating. Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils with soap after they touch raw meat to avoid contaminating other foods.
- 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 drinks for others when you are sick.