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CDC suspects ground beef as source of expanding O103 outbreak

CDC suspects ground beef as source of expanding O103 outbreak

Ground beef, consumed at home or in restaurants, and possibly purchased in large packages from grocery stores just might be the source of the now six-state E. coli O103 outbreak, according to CDC.

In an update of its last report just three days earlier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta shared its preliminary epidemiologic information that implicates ground beef for infecting at least 109 people.

In the three days since its last report, CDC reported 13 addition confirmed cases and added one additional state, Indiana, to the outbreak of the rare O103 E. coli strain.

The 109 illnesses reported by CDC are confirmed by the agency’s PulseNet laboratory network as part of the O103 outbreak. The states are investigating additional cases that might also be a part of this outbreak.

Illnesses started on dates from March 2, 2019, to March 26, 2019. Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 83 years, with a median age of 18. Fifty-three percent are female. Of 81 people with information available, 17 (21 percent) have been hospitalized. No deaths and no cases of the hemolytic uremic syndrome have been reported.

Illnesses that occurred after March 20, 2019, might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported. On average, it takes two to three weeks.

Investigation of the Outbreak

This multistate investigation began on March 28, 2019, when officials in Kentucky and Georgia notified CDC of this outbreak. Preliminary epidemiologic information suggests that ground beef is the source of this outbreak.

People infected with the outbreak strain of E. coliO103, by the state of residence, as of April 12, 2019 (n=109)

Map of United States - People infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli, by state of residence, as of April 12, 2019

In interviews, ill people answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became sick. Sixty-three (84 percent) of 75 people interviewed reported consuming ground beef. This percentage is significantly higher than results from a survey Cdc-pdf[PDF – 787 KB] of healthy people. Ill people bought or ate ground beef from several different grocery stores and restaurants. Many who became people bought large trays or chubs of ground beef from grocery stores and used the meat to make dishes like spaghetti sauce and sloppy joe.

Traceback investigations are ongoing to determine the source of ground beef supplied to grocery stores and restaurants where ill people ate.   The agency also said:

  • At this time, no common supplier, distributor, or brand of ground beef has been identified.
  • CDC is not recommending that consumers avoid eating ground beef at this time. Consumers and restaurants should handle ground beef safely and cook it thoroughly to avoid foodborne illness.
  • At this time, CDC is not recommending that retailers stop serving or selling ground beef.
  • This is a rapidly evolving investigation. We will provide updates as more information becomes available.

CDC will provide more information as it becomes available.

Source: Food Safety News

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