Capital District E. coli Update
Albany, September 4, 1999 – A total of 27 individuals, two dozen of them children, currently are hospitalized as a result of the E. coli outbreak in the Capital District, the New York State Department of Health said today. All of those who are hospitalized attended the Washington County Fair on August 28 or 29.
Six cases of E. coli 0157:H7 infection have been confirmed; the other cases are considered suspect cases. The majority of affected children have been hospitalized in Glens Falls. Other patients are hospitalized in Albany, Saratoga and Schenectady and Rutland, Vermont.
State Health Department investigators, along with public health staff from several counties throughout the Capital region, continued talking with patients and their families today to try to determine whether those who became ill consumed the same foods or drinks or had any common activities. State Health Department environmental health staff also tested three wells at the fairgrounds, located in Greenwich, New York. Health officials do not expect to know the source of the infection for at least several days.
Because secondary infection by persons who may have mild cases of E. coli infection is possible, careful attention should be paid to hand washing. Persons with diarrhea should wash their hands with hot water and soap after each toilet visit, should not handle foods for others or provide child care or patient care.
E. coli infection is often, but not always, associated with consumption of undercooked ground beef. Ground beef should read 160 degrees on a meat thermometer to ensure that bacteria have been killed. Infection can also occur as a result of bare–hand contact with ready to eat foods, or as the result of cross–contamination of food preparation surfaces. Always wash your hands and food preparation surfaces thoroughly with hot, soapy water when making meals at home and do not accept ready–to–eat items (hamburger buns, pizza, pretzels, etc.) that you see a food service employee touch with their bare hands.
Those who believe they may have E. coli infection should check with their health care provider. Symptoms of the illness are diarrhea, especially bloody diarrhea although bloody diarrhea is not always present; abdominal pain or cramping; and fever, along with the other symptoms. These typically occur about three days after exposure, with a range of one to nine days. E. coli infection should not be self–treated with over–the–counter anti–diarrheal products. The latest research indicates that antibiotics are not effective in combating the disease.