CDC says ground beef likely source of E. coli outbreak, but hasn’t been able to identify the source; Kentucky has most cases

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map

Investigation of people stricken by the recent outbreak of E. coli “suggests that ground beef is the source of this outbreak,” the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionannounced Friday. “At this time, no common supplier, distributor, or brand of ground beef has been identified.”

The outbreak, centered in Kentucky, has sickened 109 people and sent 17 to the hospital, the CDC reported. One case was found this week in Indiana, making the sixth state touched by the outbreak. Kentucky has 54 cases, Tennessee 28, Georgia 17, Ohio 7 and Virginia 2.
The agency said it is continuing its probe “to determine the source of ground beef supplied to grocery stores and restaurant locations where ill people ate. At this time, CDC is not recommending that consumers avoid eating ground beef or retailers stop serving or selling ground beef.”
However, the agency cautioned, “Raw ground beef should be handled safely and cooked thoroughly to kill germs that could cause foodborne illness.” It offered detailed advice: to consumers, retailers, and restaurants:
  • Consumers should cook ground beef to an internal temperature of 160˚F.
  • Wash hands with soap and water after touching raw ground beef.
  • Keep raw meat separate from foods that won’t be cooked before eating.
  • Thoroughly wash countertops, cutting boards, plates, and utensils with hot, soapy water or a bleach solution after they touch raw meat.
  • Don’t eat raw or undercooked ground beef.
  • After cooking ground beef, refrigerate within two hours and use within three to four days.
  • Thaw ground beef in the refrigerator. Cook or refreeze within two days.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of an E. coli infection.

Escherichia coli is a common bacterium found in the digestive tracts of mammals. Certain strains, such as the one numbered O103, which is identified with this outbreak, can produce Shiga toxin, which causes diarrhea (often bloody), severe stomach cramps, and vomiting.

“Most people recover within a week, but some illnesses can last longer and be more severe,” the CDC says. “Antibiotics are not recommended for patients with suspected E. coli infections until diagnostic testing can be performed and E. coliinfection is ruled out.” More information is at
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