NASHVILLE, Tennessee — A mysterious E. coli outbreak has expanded to 96 cases in Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia. One of Tennessee's top medical professionals says they're still trying to determine the source.
E. coli is a bacteria that causes diarrhea and is typically transmitted through contaminated water, produce that wasn't washed thoroughly, undercooked beef or food prepared by someoned who didn't wash their hands.
What to know about E. coli infection:
- People usually get sick from Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or STEC, for short.
- People typically get sick from STET 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after swallowing the germ.
- Symptoms often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting.
- Some people with a STEC infection may get a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.
- For more information, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website .
"Like many diseases, like salmonella and E. coli, many people just recover on their own. In this case, we haven't seen as many hospitalizations which is a good thing," said John Dunn, the deputy state epidemiologist for the Tennessee Department of Health.
The CDC reports there is no specific food item, grocery store or restaurant chain identified as the source of infections.
"The outbreak certainly looks like some kind of distributed food product, but we don't know what that food is right now. We're interviewing the cases, we're asking them about what they did, what they ate, where they shopped, trying to gather that information to pinpoint what the cause might be," Dunn said.
In order to prevent the spread of the disease, Dunn says it all comes down to playing it safe.
There are a number of good recommendations about safe food handling practices, cooking temperatures for ground beef, washing produce and more preventative measures on the CDC website .
The CDC says these E. coli illnesses started March 2-29. Ill people range in age from 1 to 81 years old with a median age of 17.