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E. coli outbreak linked to ground beef: More than 100 people sickened

Raw ground beef | AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

More than 100 people have fallen ill from an E. coli outbreak that the federal health officials now say is linked to ground beef.

A total of 109 people in six states have been infected with the strain of Escherichia coli O103. No deaths or cases of kidney failure have been reported, but 17 have been hospitalized, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

The infections date back to March, but the common cause of the illnesses was previously unknown. The CDC said health officials are working to determine a common supplier, distributor or brand of the ground beef.

Kentucky and Tennessee have seen the highest number of cases, with 54 and 28, respectively. Other states affected are Indiana, Georgia, Ohio and Virginia, the CDC says.

The infected people have eaten the beef at home and at restaurants, but the CDC is not warning all consumers to avoid beef nor all restaurants or retailers not to serve or sell it.

E. coli infections can cause severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting for around five to seven days. In severe cases, patients may get hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

The CDC recommends washing hands and kitchen items, handling raw meat with care and cooking it thoroughly to avoid infection.