Nearly 100 people across five states have been sickened by an E.coli outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Tuesday.
The outbreak has affected residents in Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia — with the highest number of cases (46) reported in Kentucky. While no deaths have been reported, at least 11 people have been hospitalized due to the outbreak, according to the federal health agency.
“This investigation is still ongoing and a specific food item, grocery store, or restaurant chain has not been identified as the source of infections,” the CDC said.
The agency's statement echoed that of Barbara Fox, a spokesperson for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, who told Fox News late last week a "possible food contamination source" may be the culprit. That said, she noted officials "can't fully confirm that at this time" as "interviews are ongoing with those affected."
E. coli are bacteria found in both human and animal intestines.
While most strains are harmless, some are pathogenic and can cause illness, which typically includes stomach cramps and diarrhea, according to the CDC. The bacteria can be transmitted through contaminated water or food and sometimes through contact with other people and animals.
While most people recover after several days, some E. coli infection cases can be life-threatening. This is especially true for pregnant women, newborns, older or elderly adults and those with weakened immune systems.
The CDC recommends thorough handwashing, washing fruits and vegetables, cooking meat thoroughly and avoiding cross-contamination in food preparation areas as ways to prevent E. coli illness.