WEDNESDAY, April 24, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Federal health officials say 156 cases of E. coli illness linked with tainted ground beef have now been spotted across 10 states.
That's up from the 109 cases reported from six states just two weeks ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.
"Ill people in this outbreak report eating ground beef at home and in restaurants," the CDC said. However, "at this time, no common supplier, distributor or brand of ground beef has been identified."
The vast majority of hamburgers, meatloaf and other ground beef meals are probably still safe to eat, the agency stressed, and retailers can still sell ground beef in stores.
"CDC is not recommending that consumers avoid eating ground beef at this time," the CDC said. However, as always, "consumers and restaurants should handle ground beef safely and cook it thoroughly to avoid foodborne illness," the agency added.
States now affected are Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia. Cases appear to be concentrated in Kentucky (65 cases), Tennessee (41) and Georgia (33).
Cases of illness first began to be reported March 1, and the last reported case began on April 7. Although no deaths have been reported, 20 people have been hospitalized because their cases have been so severe, the CDC said.
The investigation is "evolving," the agency said, adding that "trace-back investigations are ongoing to determine the source of ground beef supplied to grocery stores and restaurant locations where ill people ate."
This outbreak has been linked to E. coli O103, and the CDC says people typically get sick within three to five days of eating E. coli-contaminated food.
"Most people get diarrhea [often bloody], severe stomach cramps and vomiting," the agency said. "Most people recover within a week, but some illnesses can last longer and be more severe."
There are ways you can protect yourself, however. Be sure to wash hands while preparing food, and cook meats thoroughly.
"To kill harmful germs, cook beef steaks and roasts to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit and allow to rest for three minutes after you remove meat from the grill or stove," the CDC advises. "Cook ground beef and pork to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit."
Also, "wash hands, counters, cutting boards and utensils" after touching raw meat, the agency said.
There's more on E. coli at foodsafety.gov.