An E. coli outbreak associated with tainted beef has spread to 10 states, with 156 individuals testing positive for infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
"At this time, no common vendor, distributor or brand of beef was identified," wrote the CDC in an update issued Tuesday.
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Of the 156 people with reported cases, 20 had been admitted to hospital. There have been no deaths associated with this E. coli outbreak, according to the CDC's notice.
The study of the spread of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O103 infections began on March 28 after healthcare professionals in both Kentucky and Georgia reported outbreaks to the CDC. So far, there have been 65 reported cases and 33 reported cases in Kentucky and Georgia, respectively.
Other cases of E. coli infection were later reported in Florida (3 tuesday), Illinois (1
The CDC notes that infections that occur after March 26 may not be included, as those with diseases may not have reported them.
The CDC is currently investigating the source of the contaminated beef. From Tuesday, the agency has not recommended that people refrain from eating steak, but instead stressed that "consumers and restaurants should handle steak safely and make it thorough to avoid food borne disease."
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While most strains of E. coli are harmless, some are pathogenic and can cause disease, which usually includes abdominal cramps and diarrhea, according to the CDC. The bacteria can be transmitted via contaminated water or food and sometimes through contact with other people and animals.
Many of the infected recover after several days, although some E. coli infections can be life-threatening. This is especially true for pregnant, newborn, elderly or older adults and those with impaired immune systems.
The CDC recommends thorough hand washing, washing fruits and vegetables, boiling meat thoroughly and avoiding cross-contamination in cooking areas as ways to prevent E. coli disease.
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Alexandra Hein and Madeline Farber contributed to this report.