A Forsyth County resident has been confirmed as one of five people in Georgia infected with E. coli bacteria, according to public health officials.
David Palmer, District 2 Public Health spokesman, said four of the five cases reported were in women ages 18 to 52. All five illnesses occurred between April 15-28 and only one person had to be hospitalized.
While all five who contracted the virus have survived, the health department, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is continuing to investigate the cause, Palmer said.
“Right now we don’t know what caused the [illnesses],” he said. “They’re trying to determine that through the investigation. More than likely it’s from some food source. Generally, that is how E. coli is spread. The folks have to be interviewed.”
“They look for commonalities with what they’ve eaten, where they’ve eaten and where they’ve been.”
The infection, which stems from fecal matter, is typically spread through swallowing the E. coli bacteria, short for Escherichia coli.
Palmer said that can happen through contaminated food like unpasteurized raw milk, cheese or juices or contaminated water. Other possibilities include handling animals and eating without washing hands.
“Thoroughly wash your hands after using the restroom or changing diapers and always wash your hands before preparing food,” Palmer said.
Symptoms of the illness include diarrhea, severe stomach cramps, vomiting and a possible fever, Palmer said.
Most people recover in less than a week, though some can experience more severe symptoms. Occasionally, the strains can cause death, he said.
The E. coli strain detected in the five Georgia cases was 0145. According to the CDC, which deferred comment to the health department, other strains include 0157:H7, STEC 0104:H4 and O26.
In addition to the Forsyth case, Cherokee and Coweta counties have each reported a case and two have been confirmed in Cobb County.
Palmer said it’s fairly common to see a few E. coli cases, but still encouraged residents to be safe.
“It’s not really out of the ordinary,” he said. “But as public health officials, we take this seriously and try to invest and find the source so we can stop this as soon as possible.
“I think that as long as we follow proper procedures about washing our hands, washing our food and preparing it properly, we should be OK.”