E. coli outbreak linked to ground beef spreads to 10 states, sickens 156, CDC reports

An E. coli outbreak linked to tainted ground beef has spread to 10 states, with 156 people testing positive for infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“At this time, no common supplier, distributor, or brand of ground beef has been identified,” the CDC wrote in an update issued Tuesday.

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Of the 156 people with reported cases, 20 had been hospitalized. There have been no deaths linked to this E. coli outbreak, according to the CDC’s notice.

The investigation into the spread of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O103 infections began on March 28, after health officials in both Kentucky and Georgia reported outbreaks to the CDC. So far, there have been 65 reported cases and 33 reported cases in Kentucky and Georgia, respectively.

Additional cases of E. coli infection were later reported in Florida (3 as of Tuesday), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Minnesota (1), Mississippi (1), Ohio (8), Tennessee (41) and Virginia (2).

The CDC notes that infections occurring after March 26 may not yet be accounted for, as those with illnesses may have not yet reported on them.

The CDC is currently conducting investigations into the source of the contaminated beef. As of Tuesday, the agency has not recommended that people refrain from eating ground beef, but instead stressed that “consumers and restaurants should handle ground beef safely and cook it thoroughly to avoid foodborne illness.”

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While most strains of E. coli are harmless, some are pathogenic and can cause illness, which typically includes stomach cramps and diarrhea, according to the CDC. The bacteria can be transmitted through contaminated water or food and sometimes through contact with other people and animals.

Many of those infected recover after several days, although some E. coli infection cases can be life-threatening. This is especially true for pregnant women, newborns, older or elderly adults and those with weakened immune systems.

The CDC recommends thorough handwashing, washing fruits and vegetables, cooking meat thoroughly and avoiding cross-contamination in food preparation areas as ways to prevent E. coli illness.

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Alexandra Hein and Madeline Farber contributed to this report.