USDA says E. coli O157:H7 outbreak likely linked to ground beef

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UPDATED: Comments from CDC added

Federal officials have concluded investigation of a previously unrevealed multi-state foodborne illness outbreak. Ground beef was identified as the likely source of the E. Coli O157:H7 behind the infections.

The only details provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture were the name of the pathogen and the suspected source. The outbreak is listed as not being active, but the posting does not list any outcomes.

A week ago the USDA announced an outbreak of Salmonella Hadar, which, like the E. Coli outbreak revealed this week, was merely listed in a table posted on the department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service website. A spokesperson for USDA told Food Safety News this past week that additional details would have to be released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This afternoon a spokeswoman from the CDC told Food Safety News the ground beef related outbreak appears to be over. She said additional details were not immediately available.

As of this afternoon, the CDC had not posted any information on either of the outbreaks.

Turkey-related outbreak
As of March 15, there had been 22 patients reported across nine states, a CDC spokeswoman told Food Safety News. She did not indicate when the investigation began or when the first person became ill.

“People are reporting eating a variety of turkey products but a specific brand or type has not yet been identified. CDC is collecting additional data to determine the source of infections,” according to the spokeswoman for the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

About Salmonella infections
Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has eaten any turkey products and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

About E. coli infections
Anyone who has eaten any ground beef and 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 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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