An E. coli outbreak in Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio has sickened at least 20 people who reported eating fast food before they became ill. Six people have been hospitalized.

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Health officials, who learned of the outbreak two days ago, have not yet determined the food source of this outbreak or released the names of the restaurants where case-patients ate before they became ill.

Ryan Osterholm
Attorney Ryan Osterholm

“Right now, health officials are likely interviewing case-patients, collecting their food histories and looking for a common denominator. It appears this is a widely distributed food item,” said Ryan Osterholm, an E. coli lawyer with Pritzker Hageman. The national food safety law firm has represented clients in every major foodborne illness outbreak over the last 20 years. After they find any common exposures, they’ll do a traceback investigation to see how the food made its way through the supply chain, he said.

Symptoms of E. coli poisoning, which include abdominal cramping and diarrhea that can be bloody, usually take about three days to develop. State health officials in Kentucky have been able to determine that people sickened in this outbreak ate food contaminated with E. coli O103 from March 5 to March 25.  In Kentucky, cases have been reported from 12 counties scattered across the state. They are: Bourbon, Fayette, Graves, Harrison, Hopkins, Knox, Laurel, McCracken, Muhlenberg, Pike, Shelby, Spencer. The people sickened include all age groups including young children, teenagers, adults and seniors.

E. coli infections can be life-threatening especially for young children and older adults. Anyone who has symptoms should see a doctor. Young children are at particular risk for a complication called In hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) a form of kidney failure. It’s important to note that over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medicines should not be taken to treat symptoms of an E. coli infections as they can increase the risk of serious complications.

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