72 People Are Sick With E. Coli. The CDC Isn't Sure Why

An E. coli outbreak has sickened at least 72 people in five states — and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) isn’t sure of the source.

All 72 people were infected with the same strain of E. coli, but the CDC has not been able to determine a common food item, grocery store or restaurant chain that may be to blame, the agency announced Friday. Illnesses have been reported in Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia. Eight people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.

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The investigation remains ongoing, the statement says. A CDC representative told Time no other information is yet available.

People can become sick after eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated by E. coli bacteria. Raw vegetables — like romaine lettuce — ground beef and unpasteurized dairy products are three common culprits, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Many types of E. coli bacteria do not cause serious illness. But exposure to some strains can result in symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramping or vomiting, the Mayo Clinic says. The majority of infected people recover on their own within a week, but serious cases — especially those involving children and the elderly — can result in a life-threatening kidney disease.

Without a specific outbreak source identified, the CDC is recommending that consumers follow general advice for preventing food-borne illness, including regularly washing their hands, cooking meats to recommended temperatures, washing fruits and vegetables before eating, avoiding cross-contamination during cooking and not preparing food for others while sick.

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