A cluster of E. coli cases was being investigated Wednesday in the metro Atlanta area as health officials in several Southern states looked at similar cases, including at least one death.
The Georgia Department of Public Health on Wednesday confirmed the region has five confirmed cases of a strain of E. coli infection known as E. coli 0145. One sufferer required hospitalization. No deaths, however, have been reported in Georgia.
The department, which is working with the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has identified two cases of E. coli 0145 in Cobb County and one each in Cherokee, Coweta and Forsyth counties.
According to public health spokeswoman Nicole Price, four of the five cases involve women 18 to 52 years old, and the E. coli was reported between April 15 and April 28. The source of the E. coli, however, has not been determined.
“At this time, we continue to interview new cases as we are notified of them,” Price said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We have detected no food items or environmental exposures that are statistically associated with illness at this time. This investigation is ongoing.”
Food Safety News reported recently that an E. coli 0145 outbreak in Louisiana killed a 21-month-old girl in New Orleans on May 31 and sickened at least two other adults. Louisiana health officials are also working with the CDC to track down the cause of the outbreak.
Health departments in Tennessee, Alabama and Florida also were investigating similar cases.
Price, of the Georgia Department of Public Health, said Wednesday that no connection had been made between the cases in Georgia and others outside the state. "If a connection is established, we'll make that known," she told the AJC.
According to the CDC, most people infected with E. coli develop diarrhea, often bloody, and abdominal cramps two to eight days after swallowing the organism, but some illnesses last longer and can be more severe. Most people recover within a week, but some develop a severe infection.
According to Food Safety News, E. coli O145 is one of the "Big Six" E. coli strains now considered an adulterant in food by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The other strains are O26, O45, O103, O111 and O121.