The CDC reported this week that fourteen cases of E. coli infections have been reported in six states. One patient, an infant, has died from the infection in Louisiana.
DNA “fingerprints” confirmed that all fourteen cases of the bacterial infection derived from a single outbreak. This strain, called E. coli 0145, is less serious than the most common strain, 0157.
The first case was reported in mid-April, and the most recent case appeared in mid-May. The patients’ ages range from one to 79.
E. coli, or Escherichia coli, is a bacterium that usually causes mild symptoms, such as diarrhea and abdominal cramps. However, more severe symptoms such as kidney failure may develop and require hospitalization.
There is currently no treatment available for E. coli, but most patients recover within one week.
The CDC is still conducting an investigation to determine the source of the outbreak. Four weeks have passed since the last infection, which may indicate that the outbreak has ended.
Experts believe there is no reason for concern among the general population. However, children under age five and the elderly are most at risk for infection, as well as people with weakened immune systems. The Food and Drug Administration will continue its policy of testing for this strain of E. coli.
Because the CDC has not identified the source of the infection, they have not recommended any specific prevention strategies.
To avoid infection with E. coli, officials have advised the public to maintain good hygiene by washing their hands after using the bathroom, touching animals, and before eating. Additionally, it is advised to cook meat thoroughly, and to avoid unpasteurized milk, juice, and potentially contaminated water from lakes, ponds, and rivers.