CDC reports 'fast-moving' E. coli outbreak in Michigan as health officials investigate

Michigan's chief medical executive expresses concern

Photo of Angela Mulka
So far, 15 people in Michigan and 14 people in Ohio have reported infections, the CDC said. 

So far, 15 people in Michigan and 14 people in Ohio have reported infections, the CDC said. 

Photo provided/AP

A "fast-moving" E. coli outbreak in Michigan and Ohio has left 29 people ill and nine of them hospitalized, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in an investigation notice Wednesday.

In the notice, aimed at finding the source of the outbreak, the nation's top public health agency said no deaths had occurred. And no food source has been identified, which means the number of people falling sick may increase.

So far, 15 people in Michigan and 14 people in Ohio have reported infections, the CDC said. 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services chief medical executive, Natasha Bagdasarian, expressed concern about the outbreak in a press release on Tuesday. She said the agency is investigating the outbreak with three local health departments – Kent, Ottawa and Oakland. 

"While reports of E. coli illness typically increase during the warmer summer months, this significant jump in cases is alarming," said Bagdasarian said in the release. "This is a reminder to make sure to follow best practices when it comes to hand hygiene and food handling to prevent these kinds of foodborne illness."

Proper food safety practices include: washing hands before and after handling food, cooking meats thoroughly, rinsing fruits and vegetables, avoiding raw milk and more. 

"If you are experiencing symptoms of E. coli infection like cramping and diarrhea (or gastrointestinal distress), especially if they are severe, make sure to let your health care provider know," Bagdasarian continued. 

Symptoms of E. coli vary for each person but can include:

  • Severe stomach cramps.
  • Diarrhea – often bloody.
  • Vomiting.
  • Fever.

Symptoms of an infection usually appear three to four days after the exposure but may appear in as short as one day or as long as 10 days, the CDC said. Symptoms often improve within five to seven days. Some infections are very mild, but others can be severe or even life-threatening.

People younger than 5 or older than 65 and those with weakened immune systems are the most at risk for severe illness, the CDC also reported. Roughly 5% to 10% of people diagnosed with an E. coli infection develop a complication known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome that typically appears seven days after symptoms begin, often when diarrhea is improving. Symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome can include decreased frequency of urination, feeling very tired and losing color in the cheeks and inside the lower eyelids.  

For additional information on E. coli, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture website on protection from foodborne illness or the CDC website on prevention. Find food safety information on the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development website.