Vermont Health Department Identifies More E. coli 0157:H7 Cases
Health officials are again warning Vermonters not to eat undercooked meat after a ninth person was confirmed to be ill with E. coli 0157:H7 infection, and a 10th suspected case has been reported.
To date, eight of the confirmed cases — including a child who was hospitalized, but has been released — had E. coli 0157:H7 with an exact DNA match confirmed by the Vermont Department of Health Laboratory.
"Our laboratory results tell us that each person became ill from the same source," said Deputy State Epidemiologist Susan Schoenfeld. "And our epidemiology investigation has found that source to be ground beef that was contaminated before it was distributed to, prepared, and served at a few restaurants in Vermont."
The Health Department has alerted health care providers statewide to be on the lookout for any new cases, and is working closely with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to further investigate product processing and distribution. Health Department inspectors are working with the restaurants involved. All of the restaurants have changed their beef supply until the investigation is completed. It is possible, however, that distribution extended beyond these restaurants. The beef has NOT been available for sale in stores.
"Fortunately, all of the people that we know of who were ill are recovering," said Schoenfeld. "It's important to remember that eating undercooked meat — as well as consuming raw milk products — is always a risk for E. coli and other bacteria that can cause severe illness, especially in young children, the elderly or people with serious medical conditions."
Consumers should only eat ground beef or ground beef patties that have been cooked to a safe internal temperature of 160º F. Color is NOT a reliable indicator that ground beef or ground beef patties have been cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7. The only way to be sure ground beef is cooked to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria is to use a thermometer to measure the internal temperature.