As of Thursday, 72 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O103 have been reported from five states, including Georgia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta announced Friday.
The CDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and several states are investigating the outbreak.
There have been eight cases reported in Georgia, 36 in Kentucky, five in Ohio, 21 in Tennessee and two in Virginia. Eight people have been hospitalized in across the U.S., the CDC said, but there have been no deaths.
No specific food item, grocery store or restaurant chain has been identified yet as the source of infections, so the CDC does not advise the public to avoid any retailer or food item.
Symptoms of E. coli infection vary, but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting. Some people may have a fever, which usually is not very high, according to the CDC. Most people get better within five to seven days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.
The CDC recommends the following precautions to prevent E. coli infections:
- Wash your hands. Wash hands after using the restroom or changing diapers, before and after preparing or eating food, and after contact with animals.
- Cook meats thoroughly to kill harmful germs. Cook steaks and roasts to at least 145 degrees F and let rest for 3 minutes after you remove meat from the grill or stove. Cook ground beef and pork to at least 160˚F. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the meat.
- Don’t cross-contaminate food preparation areas. Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat.
- Wash fruits and vegetables before eating, unless the package says the contents have been washed.
- Avoid raw milk, other unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices.
- Don’t prepare food or drink for others when you are sick.
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