Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 15, 2014

E. coli inquiry underway

TRAVERSE CITY — A Grand Traverse region resident likely is the sixth Michigander diagnosed with E. coli poisoning in recent weeks.

The woman lives in an area covered by the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department. She recently traveled to Grand Rapids where she ate ground beef. An investigation is continuing, though, into how she contracted the illness, said Michael Collins, medical director for the Grand Traverse and Benzie-Leelanau health departments.

"Cook your meat real well and avoid cross contamination," Collins said of basic safety steps that can help prevent E. coli poisoning.

The Michigan Department of Community Health is investigating a cluster of recent illnesses caused by E. coli 0157. Five of the cases involve downstate residents ages 20 to 41. They came down with symptoms from April 22 to May 1. Three of the patients were hospitalized, though none have developed a condition known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is a severe complication of E. coli 0157 infection. No deaths were reported.

The department of community health's Angela Minicuci said the agency is investigating the northern Michigan case. It is unclear if the woman's illness is caused by the same strains of E. coli documented downstate. Lab tests indicate the illnesses are linked to a common source, with ground beef the likely culprit. Each of the individuals ate undercooked ground beef at several different restaurants in multiple locations.

“(The agency) is working with local health departments and the United States Department of Agriculture to determine the source of the ground beef and how widely it was distributed,” community health officials said in a press release.

A gastrointestinal infection caused by E. coli 0157 can cause diarrhea and abdominal cramps three to four days after exposure. Most people get better within five to seven days, but the elderly, infants, and those with weak immune systems are especially vulnerable.

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