A disturbing outbreak of a potentially-deadly food poisoning strain has now spread to ten states, and authorities are warning consumers to use extra caution when purchasing and preparing certain food products.
The bacteria, E.coli, has sickened hundreds of people after they consumed certain ground beef products. Now, officials want people to have the information that might keep them from getting sick.
The total number of people sickened so far has reached 196, a 19-person increase since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported numbers in April.
"Of those sickened, 28 people have been hospitalized due to the outbreak, which health officials said Monday has been linked to 'many sources.'
"Grant Park Packing in Franklin Park, Ill., recalled 53,200 pounds of raw ground beef products on April 24," the CDC said. "On April 23, Colorado Premium Foods in Carrollton, Ga., recalled 113,424 pounds of the product.
“The outbreak has affected residents in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Virginia, and Tennessee. At least 49 people were reported as sick in Georgia, while another 69 people have been reported sick in Kentucky.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bacteria strain can cause serious health complications for certain members of the population.
"Escherichia coli (abbreviated as E. coli) are bacteria found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals. E. coli are a large and diverse group of bacteria.
"Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can make you sick. Some kinds of E. coli can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses."
Typical symptoms of the illness are stomach cramps and diarrhea.
While most people contract the illness through eating tainted food, the bacteria can also be transmitted through contaminated water or food. On rare occasions, E. coli can be acquired through contact with other humans or animals.
E. coli infection can be a very unpleasant illness, but most people recover in a matter of a few days. For some people, however, the sickness can be life-threatening.
"This is especially true for pregnant women, newborns, older or elderly adults, and those with weakened immune systems."
So, how does a consumer reduce the chance of contracting the illness?
"Health officials recommend thorough hand-washing, washing fruits and vegetables, cooking meat thoroughly and avoiding cross-contamination in food preparation areas as ways to prevent E. coli illness."