An E. coli outbreak has sickened more than 70 people in 5 states, and health officials can't find the source

E. coliA scientist arranging petri dishes of E. coli at the Institute of Food Safety, Animal Health and Environment.Ints Kalnins/Reuters

  • An E. coli outbreak has sickened at least 72 people in five states, the CDC announced on Friday.
  • Eight people who have been infected have been hospitalized.
  • Investigators have not identified any specific food item, grocery store, or restaurant chain as the source of the infections.
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E. coli has sickened more than 70 people in five states, and health officials continue to search for the source.

72 people have been infected with an outbreak strain of E. coli O103, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Friday. Eight people have been hospitalized.

Investigators are still attempting to pinpoint the source of the outbreak and have not identified any specific food item, grocery store, or restaurant chain as the source of the infections. Illnesses started on the dates from March 2 to March 29.

"CDC is not recommending that consumers avoid any particular food at this time," the CDC said in a statement. "Restaurants and retailers are not advised to avoid serving or selling any particular food."

Analysis of the E. coli strain indicates that the ill people appear to share a common source of infection.

With more than 70 people sickened, this E. coli outbreak is already larger than the most recent major E. coli outbreak, which was linked to romaine lettuce and resulted in 43 reported illnesses across 12 states in late 2018. Previously, in April 2018, the FDA revealed that romaine lettuce harvested in the Yuma, Arizona, region was contaminated with E. coli in a separate outbreak that left five people dead and sickened at least 210.

Read more: Romaine lettuce sales are down more than $71 million so far this year as the industry has been pummeled with food-poisoning outbreaks

So far, there have not been any deaths reported in connection to the most recent E. coli outbreak.

E. coli infections often induce severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Roughly 5% to 10% of people who are infected develop hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially life-threatening kidney complication.

To prevent an E. coli infection, the CDC recommends that people wash their hands, cook meat thoroughly, and avoid cross-contamination of food. Experts also advise people to avoid raw milk and water, unpasteurized juices, and some other high-risk foods.

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