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E. coli Outbreak May Be Tied To Beef

E-coli bacteria hamburger meat contamination, beef, food
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Ground beef may to blame for an E. coli outbreak that has sickened at least 32 people in Ohio and Michigan.

E. coli bacteria can cause diarrhea, which may be bloody, as well as stomach cramps and vomiting. Most people recover within five to seven days, but some cases may be severe or life-threatening; infants, elders, and people with weak immune systems are particularly at risk.

Last night, Michigan reported 15 E. coli cases, including 10 people who had been hospitalized; Ohio reported 17 confirmed cases and two probable cases of E. coli infection.

The Michigan and Ohio E. coli cases, which began in late May and early June, are linked, based on interviews with patients and lab tests, according to the CDC.

Ground beef is emerging as a leading suspect in many of the cases.

Michigan's health officials say that more than half of the Michigan patients said they had bought and ate ground beef from Kroger Food Stores, but that doesn't mean that beef sold at Kroger was definitely to blame. Kroger is cooperating with Michigan health officials. A Kroger spokesperson wasn't immediately available for comment.

In Ohio, a beef sample from one of the patients tested positive for E. coli. That beef was bought at a Kroger store in Ohio, according to Ohio's health department. A second beef sample, bought by a consumer at another Ohio Kroger store, showed no signs of E. coli.

The CDC's web site includes these tips for avoiding E. coli infection:

  • During an E. coli outbreak, carefully follow instructions provided by public health officials on what foods to avoid in order to protect yourself and your family from infection.

  • Cook all ground beef thoroughly - 160 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat.

  • Don't eat ground beef that's still pink in the middle.

  • Drink only pasteurized milk, juice, or cider.

  • Drink water from safe sources.

  • Don't swallow lake or pool water while you are swimming .

  • Don't spread bacteria in your kitchen - keep raw meat away from other foods and wash your hands, cutting board, counter, dishes, and utensils with hot, soapy water after they touch raw meat, spinach, greens, or sprouts.

  • If a restaurant serves you an undercooked hamburger, send it back for more cooking. Ask for a new bun and clean plate, too.

  • Never put cooked hamburgers or meats on the plate they were on before cooking.

By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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