11/04/19: Georgia hard hit by mystery E. coli O103 outbreak

Georgia Hard Hit in Mystery E. coli O103 Outbreak

Georgia has been hard hit by the mystery E. coli O103 outbreak that has sickened at least 96 people in 5 states. Public health officials still do not know what is causing these illnesses. At least 17 people are sick in Georgia, with three in the hospital because their illnesses are so serious. Others are ill in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia.

This outbreak was first announced by the Kentucky Department of Health on March 29, 2019, with 20 sick. It has grown very quickly, more than quadrupling in size in 11 days.

Officials have not yet said if any food or restaurant or grocery stores are connected to this outbreak. Some news reports stated that fast food may be associated with illnesses or some type of food delivery system. Other rumours that have floated around include targeting ground beef, chicken, or American cheese as the culprit.

E. coli outbreaks in the past have been linked to romaine lettuceground beefraw sproutsraw milk, and contact with animals, especially farm animals. Because this outbreak is so widespread, it would make sense that some type of restaurant or grocery chain may be involved.

No one has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), in this outbreak, even though many of the patients are young. This syndrome usually strikes E. coli patients who are under the age of 5. HUS causes kidney failure and can cause strokes and seizures.

The symptoms of a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infection include painful and severe abdominal cramps, a mild fever, and diarrhoea that is bloody and watery. Symptoms usually start a few days to a week after exposure to the pathogen. If you or anyone you know is experiencing these symptoms, see a doctor.

Officials are giving advice to people to help them avoid this illness. Always wash your hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers, before and after preparing and eating food, and after contact with animals. Cook meats, especially ground meats, thoroughly to kill bacteria. Ground meat should be cooked to 160°F; steaks and roasts to 145°F. Keep raw meats separate from uncooked foods. And avoid consuming raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices.

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