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An E. coli outbreak has struck five states, sickening 72 people — and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has no idea why.
Each of the six dozen people from Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia, respectively, have been infected by the same exact strain of E. coli but the CDC has not been able to determine a common food item, grocery store or restaurant chain that may be to blame, the agency announced Friday.
So far, eight people have been hospitalized but no deaths have been reported, according to Time.
With the culprit remaining unknown, the CDC is urging people to follow standard protocol for preventing food-borne illness, like regularly washing their hands, cooking meats to recommended temperatures, washing fruits and vegetables before eating, avoiding cross-contamination during cooking and not preparing food for others while sick.
E. coli can make people sick after they eat or drink anything that has been contaminated by the bacteria. Raw vegetables — like romaine lettuce — ground beef and unpasteurized dairy products are three common culprits, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Exposure can cause serious illness that manifests in symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramping or vomiting. A majority of infected people typically feel better on their own after about a week or so, but serious cases — especially those involving children and the elderly — can result in a life-threatening kidney disease.
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