Nearly 100 people in 5 states have been sickened due to the latest E. coli outbreak, with eleven of those people being hospitalized since the first case was reported in early March. Symptoms of E. coli 0103 are serious, including watery or bloody diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting, and usually begin 3-4 days after exposure.
- The cases are spread across the Southeastern U.S. — those states reporting cases of E. coli illness are Georgia (17 patients), Kentucky (46), Ohio (5), Tennessee (26) and Virginia (2).
- The patients are from 1 to 81 years old, and more cases of illnesses tied to this outbreak may still be reported, the CDC said.
- The relevant state and federal agencies are investigating the outbreak.
Federal health officials have not identified a food item, grocery store or restaurant chain as the source of these infections. According to CBS News, over the past year, E. coli caused widespread recalls of romaine lettuce, but that in January. Other foods that have been involved in E. coli outbreaks in recent months include spinach, ground beef, and flour. If you or someone you know has these symptoms, they should seek medical attention right away. And to reduce the risks of E. coli, the Centers for Disease Control recommends washing hands frequently before and after preparing food and to cook food thoroughly to kill germs, which are always good advice. In addition, it is recommended that you wash fruits and vegetables before you eat them and avoid unpasteurized dairy products and unpasteurized juices.
Why This Matters: The fact that this E. coli outbreak has been ongoing for more than a month is disturbing — as is the fact that we don’t know yet its origin. The last outbreak was deadly. As we pointed out earlier this year, the law on food inspections is not being fully implemented. And lax agricultural practices and health and safety regulations regarding pesticides and use of certain fertilizers create further loopholes that result in more risk than most people realize. People may think regulations are burdensome, but generally, they are put in place to make the public safer. And we ought to be a be able to determine what caused this outbreak more quickly, with food traceable to its source.