Mysterious E. coli outbreak reaches East Tennessee

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – We’re learning more about a puzzling E. coli outbreak stretching across state lines, sickening more than 70 people including some in East Tennessee.

So far, the cause of this infection is unknown. States that are reporting sick patients include 21 in Tennessee 8 in Georgia, 36 in Kentucky, 5 in Ohio, and 2 in Virginia.

     More | CDC: Mystery E. coli outbreak sickens 72 people across 5 states, including Tennessee

The CDC says no deaths have been reported and people started becoming ill on March 2nd.

The Knox County Health Department tells us that weeks ago, they noticed an increase in the number of E. coli cases in our community.

“Currently we have eight confirmed cases connected to this outbreak,” said KCHD Director, Dr. Martha Buchanan.

KCHD telling us two people in Knox County have been hospitalized because of this outbreak and patients range in age from 1 year old to 54 years old.

Physicians are now working with the state, the CDC and patients trying to figure out what’s causing this sickness.

“We haven’t identified a definite source. E. coli is one of the things we get by eating. It is a fecal-oral contaminate. That means you eat the bacteria to make you sick. So it can be on someone’s hands when they serve you food or set the table, if they didn’t wash them well when they went to the bathroom. Or it can be contained on food that isn’t cooked properly,” said Dr. Buchanan.

KCHD is asking sickened patients where they work, if they’ve traveled, where they’ve traveled to, where they’ve eaten, among other questions to pinpoint a source.

Dr. Buchanan says E. coli’s incubation period is 3 to 5 days for it to start making you sick. 

“The symptoms of E. coli are vomiting, diarrhea, mostly diarrhea, bloody diarrhea. You’re going to feel crampy and you’ll have a fever.”

KCHD telling us this strain of E. coli isn’t making people as sick and at this point there’s no need to avoid any particular food.

“We don’t know what it is and if people follow those basic guidelines of washing their hands and cooking food until it’s fully done, then they really minimize their risk,” said Dr. Buchanan.

The CDC adding grocery stores, retailers and restaurants do not need to avoid serving or selling any particular food because they’re still working to learn the source.

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