As of April 10, 2019, at least 17 people in Georgia have confirmed cases of E. coli infection, and these cases are linked to a larger multi-state outbreak involving nearly 100 people in 5 states. Because the investigation is ongoing, the number of cases will likely rise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Georgia Department of Public Health and other agencies are working to uncover a common source of the infection, such as a specific food item, grocery store or restaurant chain. Public Health is interviewing the people who became ill, asking them about foods they’ve recently eaten and any other possible exposure they could all have in common.
The particular bacteria is E. coli O103, and usually causes symptoms about 3-4 days after someone has swallowed the germ. Symptoms of E. coli O103 include:
- diarrhea (often bloody)
- severe stomach cramps
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should see your doctor. Young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk for developing complications from E. coli infection.
“Most people recover from E. coli O103 infections within a week, but some illnesses last longer and can be more severe, resulting in a type of kidney failure,” said Cherie Drenzek, DVM, MS, DPH chief science officer and state epidemiologist. “It is crucial that the public understands how serious E. coli O103 infections can be, and to heed all recommended precautions about handwashing and food preparation.”
Ways to prevent E. coli infection include:
- 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 properly. Cook ground beef and pork to at least 160˚F. Cook steaks and roasts to at least 145˚F and let rest for three 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.
- Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and other dairy products, and unpasteurized juice.
- Don’t prepare food or drink for others when you are sick.
For more information about E. coli O103, log on to https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/index.html.
For more information about safe food handling and preparation, log on to https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/basics/clean/index.html.