Health Department Investigating Eight Possible Cases of Foodborne Illness

For Immediate Release: Oct. 10, 2008
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON - The Vermont Department of Health is warning consumers not to eat undercooked meat. The Health Department is now investigating eight cases of E. coli bacteria O157:H7 identified in Vermont.

“We’re continuing to track down the origin of the illnesses and we have not linked the illnesses to one specific food source, but we want to caution the public to avoid eating potentially risky food items,” said Acting State Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso.

None of the reported cases required hospitalization.

E.coli is a foodborne bacteria that causes severe diarrhea, often with bloody stools, and abdominal cramps. Inadequately cooked ground beef is the most likely source of this infection, though other foods have also caused outbreaks.

The Health Department is reminding Vermonters not to eat undercooked hamburger or ground beef products. Cook ground beef to at least 160ºF. Eating undercooked, pink ground beef is linked with a higher risk of illness. If a food thermometer is not available, do not eat ground beef that is still pink inside. Avoiding unpasteurized raw milk and milk products, and washing fruits and vegetables, are other practices that can help avoid serious foodborne diseases.

The E. coli strain called O157:H7 are coliform bacteria that normally live in the intestines of animals. Although most E. coli strains are harmless, several are known to produce toxins that can cause diarrhea. The E. coli strain called O157:H7 can cause severe diarrhea, kidney damage, kidney failure and death. Symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 usually start from 3-4 days after eating a contaminated food item, and may include stomach cramps and diarrhea. Some infected people experience only mild diarrhea and no other symptoms. Most people recover from E. coli bacterial illness without antibiotics or other specific treatment in five to 10 days, but more serious complications can develop.

Anyone experiencing severe abdominal symptoms should seek medical attention. Physicians are advised to report suspected cases of bacterial foodborne infection to the Vermont Department of Health at 802-863-7240 or 1-800-640-4374.

For more information about this strain of E. coli, visit the Department of Health online at: healthvermont.gov and click on E. coli under the “E” section of the website.

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