ATLANTA – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed 17 cases of E. coli O103 infection in Georgia. Because this is an ongoing investigation, the number of cases is expected to increase. These illnesses are part of a multistate E. coli outbreak sickening nearly 100 people in five states. There are no reports of death in the outbreak.
A specific food item, grocery store, or restaurant chain has not been identified as the source of these infections. DPH is interviewing the individuals who became ill, asking them about foods they ate in the week before they got sick and looking for any other exposures or commonalities.
People usually get sick from E. coli O103 an average of 3-4 days after swallowing the germ. Symptoms of E. coli O103 include diarrhea (often bloody), severe stomach cramps and vomiting. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should see their doctor. Young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk for developing complications from E. coli infection.
“Most people recover from E. coli O103 infections within a week, but some illnesses last longer and can be more severe, resulting in a type of kidney failure,” said Cherie Drenzek, DVM, MS, DPH chief science officer and state epidemiologist. “It is crucial that the public understands how serious E. coli O103 infections can be, and to heed all recommended precautions about handwashing and food preparation.”
Ways to prevent E. coli infection include:
- 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 properly. Cook ground beef and pork to at least 160˚F. Cook steaks and roasts to at least 145˚F and let rest for three minutes after you remove meat from the grill or stove. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the meat.
- Keep raw meats separate from foods that won’t be cooked before eating. Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils with soap after they touch raw meat to avoid contaminating other foods.
- Wash fruits and vegetables before eating.
- Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and other dairy products, and unpasteurized juice.
- Don’t prepare food or drink for others when you are sick.
For more information about E. coli O103 log on to https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/index.html. For more information about safe food handling and preparation log on to https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/basics/clean/index.html.