With the number of E. coli victims due to a recent outbreak at a North Carolina county fair growing to 38 as of October 16, 2012, the American public has become increasingly aware of the potential dangers of the illness, as well as steps for prevention. As with any infection, understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment, can be the difference between becoming a victim, or remaining a healthy, informed consumer.
When the general public initially became aware of the potential for E. Coli infection, it was originally understood to be contracted from undercooked ground beef, or hamburgers. Now that research has expanded, medical professionals warn that anything ingested may be a vehicle for potential infection, and even direct animal to person and person to person transmission is possible.
As with the prevention of any infection, practicing a few simple precautionary measures can reduce your risk of contracting the illness substantially:
1. Hygiene – E Coli bacteria thrive in unclean or mishandled foods. Ensuring that you, family members, and the restaurants that you dine at maintain appropriate personal hygienic measures while preparing your food can stop the spread of the harmful bacteria.
2. Food Cleaning – before preparing any meal, cleaning all fruits and vegetables, and removing all dirty and other residues can go a long way towards removing the bacteria. Although some strains can live within the plant product itself, most do reside on the exterior of such produce.
3. Cross contamination – Washing utensils, and cleaning surfaces after use, will stop the potential for bacteria spreading to other food products and kitchen supplies.
4. Verifying temperatures of meats – simply ensuring a brown color in your meets does not guarantee that the bacterium has been killed. Checking for a core temperature of at least 160 degrees will allow you the peace of mind that all potential E Coli bacteria has been killed.
E Coli is ultimately preventable, but only if you take the appropriate cautionary measures. Following the guidelines above, as well as the instruction of medical professionals, will ensure that you and your family stay safe and healthy when enjoying your next meal.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, whose attorneys work out of offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, Eastern Shore Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service.