The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is currently investigating an ongoing Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infections across multiple states. No deaths have been reported yet.
The cause of the ongoing outbreak is still unknown to the CDC. To date, over 72 people were reported to have been infected since the outbreak started on March 2 this year. Kentucky has the highest number of cases with over 36 ill, while Tennessee comes second with 21 people ill. Other states affected by the outbreak include Georgia, Ohio, and Virginia.
No Culprit Yet
With 72 people affected, the CDC is still grasping straws as to what caused the E. coli outbreak. Because of this, other government agencies have joined hands to assist with the investigation, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
It is no secret that these 72 people all share a common source of their infection. That's why the authorities are concerned that they still haven't pinpointed the main cause.
"Given the size and the number of states that are involved, what you're seeing is very unusual," said Bill Marler, a food safety lawyer from Seattle.
"If it was five people or 10 people, that's a little harder to figure out. But when there's 72 people and they're being interviewed by epidemiologists, it's pretty unusual you don't have a culprit."
The O103 Strain
The type of the E. coli strain responsible for the outbreak is called O103, and according to Marler, only 18 other noted outbreak cases of the strain have been reported in the United States since 2000. The largest O103 outbreak reported hailed from Minnesota in 2010 with 29 people affected, making this year's outbreak the most severe in history.
E. coli is most commonly found in contaminated water and food, and can also be transmitted through contact with people or animals. Symptoms of an E. coli infection include severe vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. The person who got in contact with the bacteria will mostly experience these symptoms within four days of getting infected.
Until the matter is resolved, the CDC is urging everyone to be more careful about what they eat or drink, wash fruits and vegetables before consumption, and to cook their food very thoroughly. If can be avoided, lessen the intake of raw or unpasteurized dairy products and juices.