Like Your Burgers on the Raw Side? E. Coli May Give You a Raw Deal: Death

Like Your Burgers on the Raw Side

If you think you can only get E. coli 0157:H7 (Escherichia coli) from undercooked hamburger meat served in restaurants, think again. The infection, which causes diarrhea (often bloody) and abdominal cramps and sometimes even acute kidney failure resulting from hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), has also been traced to home-prepared hamburgers. Roast beef, unpasteurized milk, apple cider, and municipal water have also been shown to carry E. coli. A recent article in the New York Times reported E. coli in salami making people sick, too. Apparently, the infection can be spread from person-to-person in child day care centers and pre-school settings as well as in nursing homes and hospitals.

What exactly is E. coli? It's a bacteria commonly found in cattle feces which can be spread by people and animals. According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates, up to 20,400 cases of E. coli infection and 500 deaths from E. coli disease occur annually in the United States. Nearly three-quarters of all cases are directly linked to ground beef.

What can you do to keep your family safe -- or at least, safer -- from the possibility of E. coli contamination? First of all, don't eat undercooked hamburger while dining out. While preparing hamburger at home, cook ground beef until the interior is no longer pink and juices run clear. Thorough cooking of beef kills E. coli. Isolate dishes and utensils that have come into contact with uncooked ground beef, so they don't contaminate other foods. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meats.

It's also wise to avoid unpasteurized beverages -- for example, fresh apple cider sold at a roadside stand. If someone in your family develops symptoms of E. coli, see your physician for treatment immediately. Rapid medical intervention can save lives. It can also help prevent additional infections.

And remember: undercooked meat might give you more than the ''runs" -- it may give you or a family member a nasty 'run-in' with death.

For more information about preventing E. coli contamination, call or write S.T.O.P. (Safe Tables Our Priority) at:

800-350-STOP (for victims and victim's families)
619-439-2969 (for media and business)
619-439-1696 (for FAX)

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