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ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Health investigators are tracking a suspected e-coli outbreak in Collquitt County.
They've still got a lot of questions, but they know at least a dozen people are sick.
The most likely culprit is tainted ground beef from a restaurant.
The Colquitt County Health Department has confirmed e-coli in one patient and expect to confirm other cases soon.
The bacteria is often transmitted through undercooked meat.
The first suspected e-coli patient came to Colquitt Regional Medical Center in Moultrie last Thursday. Since then, the hospital treated nearly a dozen other people with similar symptoms.
"The investigator will ask all the people involved where the ate for the last week, were they got their ground beef for the last week, and what the ate for every meal, trying to find a common denominator," said Denise Linnenkohl, Colquitt Co. Health Dept. Dir.
Infectious control technicians at the hospital noticed the high number of people with e-coli symptoms. The county health department confirmed one case. The district health office is also involved now as investigators work to confirm other cases.
"When a patient comes here to out ER, during this time we're going to take some extra precautions, maybe do a couple of extra tests to rule it out," said Neali McRae, Public Relations Specialist, Colquitt Regional Medical Center.
A hospital spokesperson told us it's not uncommon for people to have some of these symptoms during the summer, but this is different. They believe this could be an e-coli outbreak that likely came from tainted ground beef.
"This particular bacteria can come from several different locations, so until the Centers for Disease Control, and the Public Health Department issues a statement then you certainly want to take precautions," said McRae.
You only need to ingest a small amount of the bacteria to get sick.
·Severe stomach cramps and stomach tenderness.
·Diarrhea which can become bloody.
·Nausea and vomiting.
·Possibly a high fever
Health officials say you need to use precautions every time you handle raw meat.
"We just want the public to know they should handle their ground beef very carefully. Use good hand washing techniques anytime they're handling raw meat, and be sure to cook their ground beef to temperatures grater than 160°," said Linnenkohl.
The incubation period for the bacteria is between one to six days. Druing that period there are usually no symptons.
Investigators expect to trace the cases back to a restaurant.