Multistate Outbreak of E. Coli 0157:H7 linked to eating raw refrigerated, prepackaged cookie dough.

Through June 18th, 2009, 65 persons have been infected, none have died.

What is E. Coli?

It is a common kind of bacteria that lives in the intestines of animals and people. There are many strains of E. coli. Most are harmless. However one dangerous strain is called E. coli 0157:H7. It produces a powerful poison that can make people very ill if it gets into food or water.

How is E. coli 0157:H7 spread?

Outbreaks often are caused by food that has E.coli in it. Bacteria can get accidentally mixed into ground beef before packaging. E. coli can also live on cows' udders and may get into milk that is not pasteurized. Raw chicken and eggs may also harbor E. coli. Raw vegetables, sprouts and fruits that have been grown or washed in dirty water can carry E. coli 0157:H7. It can get into the drinking water, lakes, or swimming pools that have sewage in them. It is also spread by people who have not washed their hands after going to the toilet. E. coli can be spread to playmates by toddlers who are not toilet trained or by adults who do not wash their hands carefully after changing diapers. Children can pass the bacteria in their stool to another person for two weeks after they have recovered from an E. coli 0157:H7 illness. Older children and adults rarely carry the bacteria without symptoms.

What are the signs of E. coli 0157:H7 sickness?

Most people infected with E.coli 0157:H7 develop diarrhea (often bloody) and abdominal cramps 2-8 days after swallowing the organism. Infection is usually diagnosed by culture of a stool sample. Most people recover within a week, but some develop a severe infection. A type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) can begin as diarrhea is improving; this can occur in people at any age but is most common in children under 5 years of age and the elderly.

Advise to Consumers.

Do not eat the Nestle Toll House cookie dough even if it is cooked as bacteria may get on hands and other cooking surfaces. Never eat raw foods that are intended for cooking before consumption.

During an outbreak carefully follow instructions from public health officials. Cook all ground beef thoroughly up to 160°, do not eat ground beef or chicken that is still pink in the middle. In a restaurant send back under-cooked hamburger or chicken; ask for a clean plate and a new bun.

Don't spread bacteria in your kitchen. Keep raw meats away from other foods. Wash your hands, cutting boards, dishes and knives and forks with hot soapy water after they touch raw meat, poultry, spinach, greens or sprouts.

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