Since June 12 a dozen people have contracted E. coli O157:H7 infections after eating ground beef in New Hampshire. State and federal officials have not identified the specific source. handling-ground-beef-406All 12 people have been infected with the same strain of E. coli, according to a notice Friday from the state’s bureau of infectious disease control. All reported eating ground beef in the days before becoming ill “at a number of different locations,” according to the notice. Ground beef is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is assisting the state’s Department of Health and Human Services and Division of Public Health Services. “Ground beef is a known source of E. coli and it is important for people to avoid eating under-cooked ground beef whether at home or at a restaurant,” said acting director of public health services Marcella Bobinsky in the Friday notice. “Young children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to severe illness with this infection.” Health officials said in the notice that people are not at risk as long as they strictly follow food safety best practices when handling and cooking ground beef. “Ground beef should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160°F or 70˚C. It is best to use a thermometer, since color is not a very reliable indicator of ‘doneness.’ People should also prevent cross contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat,” according to the bureau of infectious disease control. E. coli O157:H7 is bacteria that causes severe stomach cramps, diarrhea that is often bloody, and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually is not very high. Most people get better within a week. However, some infections are severe or even life-threatening. Very young children and the elderly are more likely to develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Antibiotics should not be used to treat this infection because they may increase the risk of HUS. New Hampshire officials are asking anyone who had developed E. coli infection symptoms after eating ground beef to contact the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at 603-271-4496. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)