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Michigan Health Officials Investigate E. Coli Illnesses Linked To Ground Beef

SOUTHFIELD (WWJ/AP) - Undercooked beef is being blamed for a recent outbreak of e. coli cases in Oakland, Washtenaw and three other counties.

The Michigan Department of Community Health reports that five adults have been sickened since late April — three of them hospitalized.

"We definitely could call it an outbreak," said MDCH spokesperson Angela Minicuci. "I wouldn't say it's anything that's incredibly severe at this point. We have five cases in five counties in the state of Michigan."

The other three counties are Kent, Livingston and Ottawa.

As laboratory results suggest that the illnesses are linked to undercooked ground beef consumed at multiple locations.

More testing is planned.

"It's hard to say whether or not it was a restaurant at this point," said Minicuci. "It could have been beef that they purchased elsewhere, so until we know the source of beef...the best thing we can do is just to recommend, if you're going to be eating beef, that it's cooked all the way."

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume ground beef that has been cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F. The only way to confirm ground beef is cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature.

Consumers should also keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods and wash hands, counters, and utensils with hot soapy water after they touch raw meat. Never place cooked hamburgers or ground beef on the unwashed plate that held raw patties.

Symptoms of e. coli infection may include abdominal cramps and diarrhea which is often bloody. Health officials say most infected people recover within a week; however, some may develop complications that require hospitalization.

Young children and the elderly are at highest risk for a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, which includes kidney failure.

Those who notice the symptoms listed above and  have eaten ground beef recently is urged to call their doctor and ask about being tested for an e. coli infection.

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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