Health officials made that announcement in a news release. They said the cases are spread out from Florissant to South County, but did not give more specific information on where the cases were reported. The health department is investigating the source of the outbreak, but no source has been identified at this time, the release stated. More information is expected Thursday.
“E. coli is a very serious disease that can be life threatening,” stated Dr. Dolores J. Gunn, director of the health department, in the release. “Parents should be particularly vigilant if their children have bloody diarrhea."
The release states that health officials are asking local physicians to watch for E.coli symptoms when evaluating any patient with bloody diarrhea, diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting and cramps. Health officials warned that if E. coli is suspected, patients should go to the nearest emergency room for evaluation.
E. coli bacteria can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia among other illnesses, the release stated. It also stated the bacteria can be spread through the consumption of contaminated food, the consumption of unpasteurized (raw) milk, the consumption of water that has not been disinfected, contact with cattle, or contact with the feces of infected people.
Health officials offered these three steps to reduce the risk of E. coli exposure:
- Wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before preparing or eating food.
- Cook meats thoroughly. Ground beef and meat that has been needle-tenderized should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160°F/70˚C.
- Prevent cross contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat.