Public health officials have ruled out ground beef as the likely source of an E. coli outbreak in southwest Utah, but they have not been able to pinpoint the source of the bacteria, which has already killed two children.

“While the investigation continues into a source for this E. coli outbreak, we’ve determined ground beef is not a likely cause,” according to the latest update from the Southwest Utah Public Health Department. “The advisory not to consume previously purchased ground beef is discontinued.”

Unpasteurized, raw milk is still being considered as a possible source for the E. coli and the health department’s recommendation to avoid consuming it remains in place. One additional person has been confirmed in the outbreak, bringing the total to 12 victims.

Mohave County epidemiologist Anna Scherzer said this past week that confirmed cases in the outbreak are mostly children, including two who died. The first victim was a 3-year-old boy who died in June. He and the other fatality, a 6-year-old girl, were not related but they lived in the same multi-family dwelling in Hildale, UT.

While there was an early focus on that building, more recent victims did not live there and the geographic focus has widened to include the nearby Arizona communities of Colorado City and Centennial Park.

With the federal help, local health officials are now conducting interviews and working with parents to see where kids congregate and determine what foods they were eating before they got sick.

The Southwest Utah health officials have used Facebook to communicate with the communities. Officials reached out to parents and primary caregivers of children who have not had diarrhea since June 1, asking them to answer a “5-minute” outbreak survey.

Health officials encourage these practices to prevent infection:

  • Wash hands with warm, soapy water before and after preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom and changing diapers, after contact with animals or environments with exposure to animal feces, and before touching anything that enters an infant’s mouth.
  • Don’t allow raw food to touch cooked food. Carefully clean all surfaces and objects that have touched raw meat.
  • Cook meats thoroughly. Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Use a meat thermometer.
  • Avoid unpasteurized, raw milk, dairy products and juices.

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