The investigation continues on the E.coli outbreak that has affected residents in six North Carolina counties.
According to North Carolina Department of Public Health press release Friday, they are investigating 26 cases related to the E. coli outbreak. Ten cases are confirmed E. coli cases; 16 cases are still being investigated. At least five people have been hospitalized from the infection.
The six counties that have reported E.coli infections include, Wake (14), Sampson (6), Cleveland (1), Durham (1), Franklin (1), Johnston (1), Orange (1) and Wilson (1).
Currently, the investigation points to a possible link between the people infected and the North Carolina State Fair. Patient interview information shows that 23 of the 26 persons involved in the investigation report having attended the State Fair in Raleigh.
The North Carolina Department of Public Health says the next part of the investigation will include contacting randomly selected State Fair attendees by email to participate in a survey. Participants will not be asked to provide social security numbers or financial information at any time during the survey process.
Enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) can cause severe foodborne disease. It is transmitted to humans primarily through consumption of contaminated foods, such as raw or undercooked ground meat products, leafy greens, unpasteurized juices and raw milk.
EHEC produces toxins, known as verotoxins or Shiga-like toxins because of their similarity to the toxins produced by Shigella dysenteriae.
Symptoms of the diseases caused by EHEC include abdominal cramps and diarrhea that may in some cases progress to bloody diarrhea. The infection may lead to a life-threatening disease, such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS is characterized by acute renal failure, hemolytic anemia and thrombocytopenia. It is estimated that up to 10% of patients with EHEC infection may develop HUS, with a case-fatality rate ranging from 3% to 5%.
The very young, seniors and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness.
Each year in the United States, E. coli infections cause approximately 265,000 illnesses and about 100 deaths. Approximately 40 percent of these infections are caused by the strain E. coli O157:H7, a strain that is part of the shiga toxin-producing group of E. coli bacteria (STEC). The other 60 percent of E. coli cases are caused by non-O157:H7 shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC).