Health officials are conducting tests in at least eight states, including Alabama, to determine whether more people have been exposed to a batch of E. coli-tainted beef processed at a ConAgra meat plant in Colorado.
The meat had been positively linked to 19 cases of E. coli. The investigation comes more than two weeks after the company recalled more 354,000 pounds of ground beef.
If E. coli contaminates meat, it can lead to digestive illnesses and potentially death in humans. Health officials have been urging consumers to cook their ground beef to 160 degrees in the center to completely kill the pathogen.
The ConAgra ground beef was processed May 31 and sold to wholesalers and other customers.
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What is E. Coli?
- E. coli is short for Escherichia coli.
- It is a germ that causes severe cramps and diarrhea.
- E. coli infection is more common during the summer months and in northern states.
How Do You Catch an E. Coli Infection?
- Eating undercooked ground beef (the inside is pink)
- Drinking contaminated (impure) water
- Drinking unpasteurized (raw) milk
- Working with cattle
- Healthy beef and dairy cattle may carry the E. coli germ in their intestines. The meat can get contaminated with the germ during the slaughtering process.
- The most common way to get this infection is by eating undercooked hamburgers.
- The germ can also be passed from person to person in day care centers and nursing homes.
- If you have this infection and don't wash your hands well with soap after going to the bathroom, you can give the germ to other people when you touch things, especially food.
- People who are infected with E. coli are very contagious.
Symptoms of E. Coli Infection
- Symptoms start about 7 days after you are infected with the germ.
- The first sign is severe abdominal cramps that start suddenly.
- After a few hours, watery diarrhea starts. The diarrhea causes your body to lose fluids and electrolytes (dehydration).
- The watery diarrhea lasts for about a day. Then the diarrhea changes to bright red bloody stools.
- The infection makes sores in your intestines, so the stools become bloody. Bloody diarrhea lasts for 2 to 5 days.
- You may have a mild fever or no fever. You may also have nausea or vomiting.
- If you have any of these symptoms - watery, bloody diarrhea, cramps, fever, nausea or vomiting - try to get to your doctor right away.
How to Prevent Getting E. Coli Infection
- Wash your hands carefully with soap before you start cooking.
- Cook ground beef until you see no pink anywhere.
- Don't taste small bites of raw ground beef while you're cooking.
- Don't put cooked hamburgers on a plate that had raw ground beef on it before.
- Defrost meats in the refrigerator or the microwave. Don't let meat sit on the counter to defrost.
- Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods. Use hot water and soap to wash cutting boards and dishes if raw meat and poultry have touched them.
- Don't drink raw milk.
- Keep food refrigerated or frozen. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold.
- Refrigerate leftovers right away or throw them away.
- People with diarrhea should wash their hands carefully and often, using hot water and soap, and washing for at least 30 seconds. People who work in day care centers and homes for the elderly should wash their hands often, too.
- In restaurants, always order hamburgers that are cooked well done so that no pink shows.
Source: http://familydoctor.org/handouts/242.html (Information From Your Family Doctor Web Site)