May 29, 2024

Is Ground Beef the Kentucky E. coli O103 Outbreak Culprit?

The E. coli O103 outbreak in Kentucky is rare because this pathogen doesn’t cause many illnesses in the United States. But at least 46 people in Kentucky and more in four other states are sick; and officials don’t know what caused this outbreak. They may have narrowed down the possibilities. Is ground beef the Kentucky E. coli O103 outbreak culprit?

Is ground beef Kentucky E. coli O103 outbreak culprit?

News outlets have stated that officials are looking at ground beef, as well as chicken and American cheese; however, no officials have confirmed this information. Testing is ongoing, and may take a few days or a few weeks to complete.

Contaminated ground beef has been the cause for E. coli outbreaks for many years, including the outbreak last year that was linked to Adams Farm Slaughterhouse, and ground beef produced by PT Farm in New Hampshire.

Cattle carry E. coli bacteria in their intestines; during slaughter the pathogen can contaminate whole cuts of beef. Then, when the beef is ground, bacteria is mixed throughout. If hamburgers made with that ground beef are not cooked to well done, or if cross-contamination occurs with kitchen surfaces or other foods that are eaten uncooked, people can get sick.

Officials have stated that some sort of food distribution is the likely mechanism for this outbreak. Others have said that fast food may be the source.

Food safety attorney Fred Pritzker said, “Given how fast this outbreak has grown, it makes sense that some widely distributed food is the source of illness.”

DPH Commissioner Dr. Jeff Howard said in a statement, “Exposure to E. coli bacteria can be debilitating and potentially life-threatening, especially for small children and individuals with weakened immune systems. With this in mind, the Department for Public Health has taken swift action to identify patients, ensure appropriate testing, and follow up care as we work to determine the source of the outbreak.”

Those sickened include children as well as adults. No deaths have bee3n reported, but six people have been hospitalized because their illnesses are so severe.

Most hospitalizations in Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) outbreaks are linked to development of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious development that can cause kidney failure. No official has confirmed whether or not any patients in this Kentucky E. coli O103 outbreak has developed HUS.

If you or anyone you know has been experiencing the symptoms of an E. coli outbreak, which include painful stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea, see a doctor. You may be part of this ground beef Kentucky E. coli O103 outbreak.

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