Investigators still are searching for the source of an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) in six states that led to the death of a 21-month-old Louisiana girl.
So far, 14 people have been confirmed to be infected with E. coli O145. Of those, three people were hospitalized and one, a toddler from Louisiana, has died, according to a CDC report released Sunday.
Most cases are concentrated in the Southern U.S., with the largest concentration of cases being located in Georgia. The number of people infected by state in the outbreak is:
- Georgia – 5
- Louisiana – 4
- Alabama – 2
- Tennessee – 1
- Florida – 1
- California – 1
Dates of the illnesses range from April 15 to May 12, according to the report.
The CDC investigation into the outbreak began May 14, with the most recent report of illness coming in on June 4. However, laboratory tests show the strain is susceptible to antibiotics.
STECs can cause severe illness, such as bloody diarrhea and a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.
Since a source has yet to be identified, the CDC cannot provide specific guidance on how to protect against infection but they have provided general safety guidelines:
- Wash your hands, especially after using the restroom and prior to handling food.
- Cook meat thoroughly (160°F for ground beef and needle-tenderized meat).
- Avoid cross-contamination, such as using the same utensils and dishware for raw and cooked foods.
The outbreak comes on the heels of new testing requirements for six non-O157 STECs (O145, O26, O45, O103, O111 and O121), which began June 4. Like E. coli O157:H7, these six strains now are classified as adulterants. Food contaminated with any of these strains is considered to be unfit for human consumption.
For the CDC’s full report, click here.
For a list of symptoms of STEC infection, click here.