The E.coli outbreak linked to flours produced by General Mills has sickened four people in Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The four individuals, who live in Chicago and Brown, suburban-Cook, and McHenry counties, are among the 38 people in 20 states who are part of the outbreak who developed E. coli infections after preparing, eating or handling food, dough or batter made with the contaminated flour.
The outbreak, which hospitalized 10 people, triggered a 10 million-pound recall of flours sold under the brand names Gold Medal Flour, Gold Medal Wondra Flour, and Signature Kitchens Flour. Consumers who have purchased these products should not use them as E.coli can cause serious illness and death.
Symptoms of an E. coli infection usually develop between two and five days of exposure but can appear within 24 hours or take as long as 10 days to develop. They include stomach cramps and diarrhea, that is sometimes bloody. Sometimes these symptoms, which last about a week, are accompanied by a low-grade fever. Anyone who ate the recalled flour and developed theses symptoms should see a doctor and mention exposure to E. coli.
Young children, seniors and those with compromised immunes systems are at greatest risk fro developing E. coli infections and for associated complications such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which cause kidney failure and death. None of the case patients in this outbreak have developed HUS.
The case-by-case count is as follows: Alabama (1), Arkansas (1), Arizona (2), California (1), Colorado (4), Iowa (1), Illinois (4), Massachusetts (2), Maryland (1), Michigan (4), Minnesota (3), Missouri (1), Montana (1), New York (1), Oklahoma (2), Pennsylvania (2), Texas (2), Virginia (2), Washington (2) and Wisconsin (1).
The illnesses were reported from December 21, 2015 to May 3, 2016. Seventy eight percent of the case patients, who range in age from 1 year to 95, are female.
When asked about food histories, 16 of the 21 people interviewed by health investigators reported that they or someone in their household used flour in the week before they became ill. Nine reported eating or tasting raw homemade dough or batter, 12 named Gold Medal brand flour, and three reported eating or playing with raw dough at restaurants.
Health investigators used production information from flours purchased by those sickened to trace back the source and identified a General Mills facility in Kansas City, Missouri as the like source of the contaminated flour.