(PONTIAC, MI) – The Michigan Departments of Community Health (MDCH) and Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), along with local health departments in Oakland, Kent, Livingston, and Ottawa counties, are investigating a cluster of recent illnesses due to the bacteria E. coli O157. There is one confirmed case of an Oakland County resident who acquired the illness in Ohio.
Five confirmed Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O157 illnesses have been reported in adults between 20-41 years of age with symptom onset dates between April 22 and May 1, and three individuals have been hospitalized. None of the ill individuals have developed severe complications, and no deaths have been reported.
Laboratory results suggest the illnesses are linked to a common source. The investigation is on-going, and preliminary information collected from ill persons indicates that ground beef is most likely the source.
Ill individuals ate undercooked ground beef at several different restaurants in multiple locations. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), MDARD, and local health departments are working to determine the source of the ground beef and how widely it was distributed.
“We encourage everyone who is eating ground meat to have it cooked to a safe internal temperature of 160o F. If you are eating at a restaurant, all ground meat should be ordered well-done,” said Kathy Forzley, Health Division manager/health officer. “Colour is not a reliable indicator that ground beef or ground beef patties have been cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria such as E. coli. The only way to confirm ground beef is cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature.”
Oakland County Health Division, MDARD, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and to only consume ground beef that has been cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F. Prevent cross-contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat. Also, make sure to separate raw meats from foods in the refrigerator that will not be cooked such as lettuce or other raw fruits and vegetables.
“E. coli O157 illnesses can be very serious or life-threatening, especially for young children, older adults, and people who are immuno-compromised,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, MDCH Chief Medical Executive. “Whether you cook at home or order in a restaurant, ground meats, including ground beef, should always be cooked thoroughly to the proper temperature."
Some kinds of E. coli cause disease by making a toxin called Shiga toxin. A gastrointestinal infection caused by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157 can cause diarrhoea (often bloody) and abdominal cramps three to four days after exposure (incubation range 2-10 days). Most people get better within five to seven days, but the elderly, infants, and those with weak immune systems are more likely to develop severe or even life-threatening illness, such as haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
Persons who are ill with these symptoms and have consumed ground beef recently should consult with their medical provider and ask about being tested for an E. coli infection.