E. coli infections from unknown source under investigation in Alabama
The Alabama Department of Public Health is investigating four cases of E. coli O157:H7 and two cases of Rotavirus in younger children in Northeastern Alabama.
As of today the department had not reported what the possible sources of the pathogens might be. It is unknown if the sources involve foods or beverages, although food is the usual source of E. Coli infections.
The department regularly investigates clusters and outbreaks of communicable diseases as required by Notifiable Disease Rules in Alabama.
In 2021, ADPH investigated 113 cases of E. coli, shiga toxin-producing illness including O157:H7.
To reduce the risk of E. coli O157:H7 and other gastrointestinal illnesses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends:
- WASH YOUR HANDS thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.
- WASH YOUR HANDS after contact with animals or their environments (at farms, petting zoos, fairs, even your own back yard).
- COOK meats thoroughly. Ground beef and meat that has been needle-tenderized should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160 degrees F/70 degrees C. It is best to use a thermometer as color is not a very reliable indicator of “doneness.”
- AVOID raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products and unpasteurized juices (like fresh apple cider).
- AVOID swallowing water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools and backyard “kiddie” pools.
- PREVENT cross contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards and utensils after they touch raw meat.
About E. coli infections
Anyone who has developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.
The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.
Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.
People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.
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