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E. coli outbreak spreads as investigators trace ground beef

UPDATE: Late Tuesday night the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service posted a recall notice for about 8,000 pounds of raw beef products from PT Farm LLC in North Haverhill, NH, in connection with the E. coli outbreak.

People in New Hampshire are continuing to become ill with E. coli infections after eating ground beef, with the most recent case just last week, but state and federal officials are closing in on the source.

RawGroundBeefMainIn some ways, the 14 outbreak victims don’t seem to have much in common, according to investigators. They are spread across the state and consumed ground beef in a variety of locations before becoming infected, said Beth Daly, chief of the New Hampshire Bureau of Infectious Disease Control.

“Some of them did eat it at restaurants, though, so it’s not just a situation of people not cooking ground beef long enough at home,” Daly said. “It’s important for people to remember when they go to restaurants to order beef to be cook throughly.”

The first confirmed E. coli infection in the outbreak began in mid-June, Daly said. Most of the cases were in late June and early July, but another person got sick last week and has been confirmed as part of the outbreak.

At the point state investigators discovered the common denominator of ground beef among outbreak victims, they notified the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates meats. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors have been working to trace the source of the implicated ground beef.

A spokeswoman with FSIS said this afternoon that the agency is narrowing down the possible sources and will likely announce a recall when additional details are available.

Anyone who has eaten ground beef in New Hampshire and developed symptoms of E. coli infection is asked to contact a doctor.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea that is often bloody, and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually less than 101˚F, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people recover within five to seven days. Some infections, however, are severe or even life-threatening, especially in young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

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