Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it was investigating a mysterious multistate E. coli outbreak that sickened more than 70 people. The outbreak has since been linked to more than 100 cases, but the CDC said information it has collected so far appears to point to a source: ground beef.
According to the agency, preliminary information relating to ongoing investigations “suggests” the meat is the culprit. The CDC said Friday that people who were sickened in the outbreak reported eating ground beef while at home or at a restaurant, though a single brand or distributor has not yet been determined.
The CDC said that the number of sickened individuals has risen to 109 people across six states, which in addition to Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia now includes Indiana. So far, there have been no deaths linked to the outbreak strain E. coli O103, but the agency reported that 17 people have been hospitalized.
People who became sick reported feeling ill between March 2 and March 26. While investigations are still underway, more than 80 percent of the 75 individuals interviewed reported having ingested ground beef prior to becoming sick.
As was the case last week, Kentucky remains the state where the outbreak has been most concentrated. Fifty-four people have fallen ill in Kentucky alone, according to the CDC, up from the 46 that state officials were reporting last week.
Citing the Kentucky Department for Public Health, the Mercer County Health Department posted on Facebook on March 28 that the state’s cases were “found in children and teenagers with an extensive exposure to fast food,” but added that the outbreak was “not limited to young people.” Indeed, the CDC said Friday that cases were reported in people ages 1 to 83.
While the agency said it is not yet advising that consumers avoid ground beef, it did note that people handling raw meat should take normal precautions. Those include keeping raw meat away from other foods while preparing it as well as thorough hand washing both before and after touching raw meat of any kind. Additionally, consumers should avoid eating ground beef that is undercooked or raw.