An investigation is underway after several cases of e.coli infection in New Jersey has sent eight individuals to the hospital. The outbreak is so far linked to a Panera Bread in Phillipsburg.
E.Coli Outbreak In New Jersey
An e.coli outbreak is currently ongoing in four counties of New Jersey namely Warren, Hunterdon, Middlesex, and Somerset. So far, eight cases of e.coli have been reported, all of whom were hospitalized, although five have already been discharged.
As the investigation is still in its early stages, it is still rather difficult for authorities to pinpoint the specific source of the infection. In fact, earlier this week, health officials merely stated that they are investigating on a "chain restaurant" but did not mention the name of the restaurant or its location. However, last Thursday, epidemiologist from Warren County, Sarah Perramant, told local news that the chain restaurant currently under investigation as a potential source of the infection is a Panera Bread in Phillipsburg even if only one of eight cases were reported in the area.
According to Donna Leusner, spokesperson of the New Jersey Department of Health, the investigation on the outbreak involves gathering the food history of the infected individuals and testing if their infections are the same. This is because the affected individuals might have eaten at several places or bought contaminated food from several stores before they fell ill. The department is also expected to interview any potentially involved restaurants and trace the food back to the contaminated source.
"Sometimes the food source associated with illness is never determined. That's why we conduct many interviews with sick individuals to get food history data," states the New Jersey Department of Health update on the investigation.
That said, officials are encouraging anyone who gets sick after eating to see a healthcare provider.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are working with the local Department of Health on the investigation.
Escherichia Coli or E.coli bacteria is actually a normally occurring bacteria that lives in the intestines of both people and animals. Though most E.coli bacteria are harmless and are a part of a healthy intestinal tract, some types can cause illnesses such as diarrhea, respiratory illness, pneumonia, and urinary tract infection.
Such infections are often gotten from ingesting infected food, water, or milk, or from having contact with cattle or infected feces. After the ingestion or contact with the bacteria, it usually takes about three to four days before symptoms begin to show, but may also manifest as soon as day one or as far as day 10.
The symptoms vary from one person to another, but it often involves diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. While most individuals get better after about five days, some infections are rather severe and even life-threatening.