An outbreak of E.coli that has affected residents across multiple counties in Washington state is possibly linked to fresh produce, said health officials.
As of Wednesday, there have been at least six E.coli cases across four Washington state counties, with three of those cases occurring in King County, according to a news release from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).
The cases range in age from 0-79, with two of the six confirmed cases occurring in the 10-19 age group. At least three people have been hospitalized as a result, and at least one person has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which health officials described as a “serious complication” of an E. coli infection that can lead to damage of the kidneys and other organs.
“DOH is coordinating with local health jurisdictions to identify cases related to the outbreak using genetic testing of the bacteria and investigating possible causes,” officials said, noting that illnesses data back as far as March 9.
E. coli typically causes illness within two to eight days of eating a contaminated product and is usually diagnosed through stool samples. Symptoms may include stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. While infections can be very mild, others may develop into severe illness or life-threatening situations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises contacting a health care provider if you have diarrhea that lasts more than three days or blood in the stool or excessive vomiting.
“This outbreak is a reminder of the importance of food safety from farm to fork, especially fresh produce. We can all help reduce E. coli O157:H7 infections by washing our hands properly, scrubbing produce before eating, cooking foods thoroughly and choosing pasteurized milk products,” said Acting State Health Officer Scott Lindquist, in a statement. “E. coli O157:H7 infections can cause serious complications, so make sure to contact your health care provider right away if you notice symptoms, especially bloody diarrhea.”