Deadly E.Coli outbreak has experts on alert

Friday, June 08, 2012

An E. Coli outbreak has experts on alert. Scientists at the CDC are racing to figure out what's causing the deadly new outbreak.

The strain is a dangerous one, carrying the O-145 genetic fingerprint which produces a deadly toxin. The toxin can lead to kidney failure and death.

So far, more than a dozen cases have been reported - most were mild but one was fatal.

Health officials believe the victims all have the same strain of E. Coli.

"We know that these cases are all linked and that would suggest that there was a common source somewhere along the way. We just don't know where," said J. Patrick O'Neal of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

In the meantime, the most common sources of the E. Coli bacteria are under-cooked chicken or beef. To prevent the spread, remember to cook your food thoroughly, wash all utensils, and wash all fruits and vegetables.

ABC medical editor Dr. Richard Besser suggests that if you have kids, or take care of a sick or elderly loved one, be especially vigilant.

"When you are cooking in your kitchen and if you are with a little child that wants a snack or drink, you have to wash your hands. Most of these were adults who got sick but one was a small child so you have to be very careful," said Dr. Besser.

There are a number of early symptoms of an E. Coli infection. It can start with belly pain that gets worse. You can also have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a fever.

If you do have these symptoms, you should call your healthcare provider immediately. Doctors can do a culture to look for the bacteria.

Some cases will resolve on their own while others may need hydration and other supportive care.

Lastly, if you suspect you could have an E. Coli infection, you should not take any anti-diarrhea medication. That kind of medication can allow the toxin to sit in your body longer.

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