(Gray News) - Health officials are investigating the source of a five-state outbreak of E. coli O103.
Eight people have been hospitalized and 72 cases have been reported in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of the 72 cases, 36 are in Kentucky. No deaths have been reported.
The illnesses began in early March, according to the CDC.
A specific food item, grocery store or restaurant chain has yet to be linked to the outbreak. Thus, the CDC isn’t recommending any particular food item to be avoided at this time.
People usually get sick from the toxin-producing germ two to eight days after swallowing the E. coli.
To avoid the contagion, the CDC advises people to wash their hands, cook meats thoroughly, avoid cross-contamination of food preparation areas, wash fruits and vegetables, avoid unpasteurized dairy products and juices and don’t prepare food for others when you are sick.
Symptoms include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting, with some people running a low fever.
A life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome can develop in five to 10 percent of E. coli illnesses and develops a week after the onset of symptoms.
People with this complication should be hospitalized. Signs that this complication has developed include losing color in cheeks, lower urination frequency and extreme tiredness.