WebMD Health News

Source of E. Coli Outbreak May Be Ground Beef

fresh beef

April 12, 2019 -- The mysterious E. coli outbreak that has sickened dozens of people across six states may be linked to ground beef, according to the CDC.

No common brand or supplier of the beef has yet been identified.

Since the outbreak began in early March, 109 people have contracted the same strain of E. coli O103 in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana. So far, 17 people who’ve gotten ill have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Symptoms of E. coli infection often include severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting.

Investigators working to find the source of the outbreak have questioned many of the people who’ve gotten sick about foods they had eaten the week before they became ill. Sixty-three of the 75 people they interviewed -- 84% -- reported eating ground beef. Many people said they bought trays or tubes of ground beef at the grocery store and used it to make dishes like spaghetti sauce or sloppy Joes.

If you’re planning to eat ground beef, the CDC says you should cook it and handle it carefully. Beef needs to be heated to at least 160 F to kill E. coli. If you’re putting it in a sauce or a dish like lasagna, check the temperature in several different places before serving. After cooking the beef, refrigerate it within 2 hours and use it within 3 or 4 days.

Make sure to keep raw beef away from foods you won’t cook prior to eating, like lettuce. Also be sure to wash your hands and anything the meat touches, like utensils, cutting boards, and kitchen sponges, with hot soapy water or a solution of bleach and water.

People usually get sick within 3 or 4 days of swallowing the germ.

WebMD Health News Brief Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on April 12, 2019


CDC: “Outbreak of E. coli infections.”

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.