At least three people are sick with E. coli O157:H7 infections after eating ground beef sold by New Seasons Market stores. The retailer is recalling an unrevealed amount of meat.

Although the implicated ground beef was sold between Oct. 19 and 23, there is concern that some people may have it in their home freezers. The Oregon Health Authority issued a public notice urging customers who purchased the ground beef to throw it away immediately.

The recalled ground beef comes in 5 percent, 10 percent and 20 percent fat content varieties and is ground at individual New Seasons Market stores’ meat counters. The retailer has stores in Oregon, Washington and California.

All three of the confirmed patients are in the Portland, OR, area and are recovering from their infections, according to the notice posted by the state health officials. The infected people ate ground beef purchased at three different New Seasons Market locations.

“OHA identified the outbreak after laboratory tests conducted at the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory determined that an identical strain of E. coli O157:H7 was present in all three patients,” according to the public health notice.

“New Seasons Market has reported to OHA that it suspended the sale of the product while Oregon Department of Agriculture continues its investigation into the cause of the outbreak.”

About E. coli infections
Anyone who has eaten any of the implicated products and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)