Federal officials said today that they are investigating a new foodborne E. coli outbreak, but they have not yet identified a source.

There are 15 people confirmed ill across three states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Investigators have begun traceback work on a food or foods, but the Food and Drug Administration has not released any details about the traceback.

The CDC did not identify which states have patients, but a spokesperson for the agency said state officials are assisting with the outbreak investigation. Additional patients are likely to be identified because it can take up to a month or more after a person becomes ill and when federal officials receive confirmation from states.

This is the third outbreak of unknown origin that the FDA has investigated so far this year. The other two involved Salmonella Miami, which sickened at least 65 people, and E. coli O157:H7, which sickened at least 22 people. E. coli O145:H28 is the pathogen involved in the new outbreak.

Neither the FDA nor the CDC has posted outbreak announcements, except for one line of data in the FDA’s weekly update on its CORE investigations unit. The FDA has not posted any recall notices in relation to the outbreak.

About E. coli infections
Anyone who has 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.