October 11, 2008
By Brent Curtis Herald Staff
State health officials are seeking the source of an E. coli outbreak that has made eight people sick in Vermont recently.
The state Health Department issued an advisory Friday warning consumers not to eat undercooked meat — a primary transmitter of the disease.
But acting state epidemiologist Patsy Kelso said Friday that it's not likely to be the food Vermonters cook themselves, but the dishes prepared for them, that are spreading the strain of coliform bacteria.
"With the information we have so far, we suspect it's coming from eating in restaurants," Kelso said.
The eight people diagnosed with E. coli — none of whom were hospitalized — all lived or had visited eateries in Chittenden and Washington counties recently, she said.
Kelso said she didn't know if any of the eight adults diagnosed with E. coli had recovered from the affliction, which is most commonly cured simply by waiting for the body to fight off the infection without antibiotics.
Kelso said Health Department investigators didn't believe the outbreak was confined to a single restaurant or restaurant chain. Investigators are also unsure whether contaminated meat had also made its way into grocery stores.
While some types of meat have already been eliminated by health officials as potential suspects, ground beef remained as a possible source for the outbreak on Friday afternoon.
E. coli causes severe diarrhea, often with bloody stools, and abdominal cramps. The food-borne illness is most commonly transferred through undercooked meat. However, the disease can also incubate in raw milk and milk products and in unwashed fruits and vegetables.
While most people recover from E. coli infections, some strains can lead to kidney failure and death. Typically, E. coli symptoms develop three to four days after eating contaminated food.
Anyone experiencing severe abdominal symptoms should seek medical attention.
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