E. Coli Outbreak Spreads to 7 States

The CDC isn't sure what caused the e. coli outbreak.

E. coli bacteria
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At least 17 cases of people being infected with E. coli have been reported in recent weeks, with the outbreak affecting seven states so far. The highest concentration has been reported in New Jersey, which has seen at least six cases. Other affected states include Idaho with four cases, Connecticut and Pennsylvania with two cases each, and Missouri, Ohio, and Washington with one case each, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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These reports come one week after news that a Panera Bread restaurant in New Jersey was being investigated by the state’s Department of Health as a possible source for E. coli outbreaks in the state. However, local health officials emphasized that they had not yet confirmed Panera or any restaurant as a source, and the CDC echoed their remarks in a statement on April 10.

“The investigation is still ongoing and a specific food item, grocery store, or restaurant chain has not been identified as the source of infections. State and local public health officials are interviewing ill people to determine what they ate and other exposures in the week before their illness started,” the statement reads.

The reported illnesses began between March 22 and March 31, with those affected ranging from age 12 to 84 years old, 65 percent of them female.

E. coli bacteria are found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals, according to the CDC. While some strains are harmless, others can make humans extremely sick, with common symptoms including diarrhea (usually bloody), severe stomach cramps, and vomiting. These symptoms usually appear about 3 to 4 days after eating or drinking something with the bacteria. Most people will recover within 5 to 7 days, but the CDC recommends seeing a doctor if diarrhea persists longer than 3 days or is paired with high fever, bloody stool, or so much vomiting you can’t keep liquids down.

It may be hard to avoid contaminated food that’s already been prepared for you at a restaurant, but there are steps you can take to prevent E. coli contamination at home, like using separate cutting boards for raw meat and produce and scrubbing your hands with hot, soapy water before touching any food.

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