Dozens of people in Michigan and Ohio are coming down with sudden cases of E. coli and the CDC does not have an explanation.
In the past three weeks, close to 30 people have reported cases of the painful gastro infection. The ages of the patients range from 6 years old to 91, and nine of them have been hospitalized as a result. Luckily, nobody has died from the E. coli outbreak yet.
Health officials admit that the number of cases is likely much higher than the 29 confirmed. Some patients with milder symptoms may not have opted to seek medical attention; and the process of establishing a real outbreak typically takes multiple weeks, so some patients may have just thought they were having bad stomach issues.
Early findings from the investigation “showed that bacteria from sick people’s samples are closely related genetically. This suggests that people in this outbreak got sick from the same food.”
A few cases of E. coli are routine each year, but the numbers being reported are five times as high as a year ago, which signals a legitimate outbreak. The Michigan department of Health said it was investigating 98 cases currently — many of which have not made it to the CDC’s investigation, yet.
The CDC believes the current E. coli outbreak started with the same food, but isn’t sure which food, yet
“While reports of E.coli illness typically increase during the warmer summer months, this significant jump in cases is alarming,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive, in a statement.
The best way to prevent E. coli in the household is to keep your hands, cooking tools, and groceries clean. Cleanliness is not foolproof — sometimes the bacteria is living inside the contaminated food — but often a gastro infection can be avoided by washing everything thoroughly. Also, don’t leave meats, eggs, and dairy sitting out for more than two hours; and don’t cross-contaminate surfaces (like cutting boards) with raw meat and other fresh foods.
Public health officials are now working to identify any additional cases of illness linked to the outbreak. They’re also interviewing people about the foods they ate in the week before they got sick. The food source of the outbreak has yet to be identified, but based on the E. coli sampled from infected individuals, it’s likely that they all became ill from eating the same food because the bacterial strains appear very closely related, the CDC stated.