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E. Coli Outbreak Linked to Ground Beef Has Spread to 10 States

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An E. coli outbreak linked to ground beef has spread to 10 states and infected at least 156 people, CNN reported Wednesday.


The outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O103 began March 1 and has hospitalized 20 people, but no one has died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

"Ill people in this outbreak report eating ground beef at home and in restaurants," CDC wrote. "Traceback investigations are ongoing to determine the source of raw ground beef supplied to grocery stores and restaurant locations where ill people reported eating."

As of an update Tuesday, the CDC said no common supplier of the beef had yet been found.

However, also on Tuesday, K2D Foods recalled around 113,424 pounds of raw ground beef over possible contamination with the same strain of E. coli, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced. Investigators are working to determine if the recalled beef is linked to the outbreak in any way.

K2D Foods does business as (DBA) Colorado Premium Foods and is based in Carrolton, Georgia. The recalled beef was produced on March 26, March 29, April 2, April 5, April 10 and April 12 and came in two 24-pound vacuum-packed packages in cardboard boxes labeled "GROUND BEEF PUCK" with "Use Thru" dates of April 14th, 17th, 20th, 23rd, 28th and 30th, according to FSIS. The products had an establishment code of "EST. 51308" and were sent to distributors in Ft. Orange, Florida and Norcross, Georgia.

The label information of the recalled beef.

USDA FSIS

The first cases in the outbreak were reported to the CDC by health officials in Kentucky and Georgia, Reuters reported. When it first announced the outbreak earlier this month, CDC said that it had infected 109 people in six states, according to CNN. It has since spread to 10, with cases reported in Tennessee, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio and Virginia.

A map showing the state-by-state spread of the outbreak.

CDC

Symptoms usually begin three to four days after consuming contaminated food and include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Some people infected with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli can develop kidney failure, but no cases have been reported in this outbreak so far.

The CDC said that many infected people had bought trays or chubs of beef from grocery stores, according to Reuters. However, the agency is not recommending that consumers or restaurants stop cooking or serving beef at this time.

"Consumers and restaurants should handle ground beef safely and cook it thoroughly to avoid foodborne illness," the agency said.

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The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.