St. Charles County has had one confirmed case of E. coli with a second case under investigation, said a St. Charles County health department official.
The two cases are part of an investigation into an , said Doug Bolnick, public information officer for the .
Bolnick said that E. coli cases are fairly common.
“It doesn’t happen every day, but it does happen,” Bolnick said. “Normally, people slough it off and call it stomach flu or food poisoning.”
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and Centers for Disease Control scientists are leading an investigation into the outbreak in the St. Louis region. They are testing or have tested 41 sample from individuals believed to have the illness. So far, 26 individuals have confirmed cases of E. coli, according to a Tuesday state health department news release.
A team of epidemiologists, disease investigators and food safety experts are working in coordination with local and federal partners to identify the cause of the reported illness, according to the news release.
Schnucks under the microscope
Health officials are looking into prior to falling ill.
Last week, spokeswoman Lori Willis told Patch that when got news of the outbreak from the health department, it began taking precautionary steps by pulling some items from its salad bar.
"To date, no tests taken from Schnucks stores have come back positive for E. coli and no original source has been pinpointed, but Schnucks Food Safety is taking every possible precaution," stated a Schucks news release Monday.
"Health officials report that Schnucks stores were mentioned during some of the recent patient food histories spanning 7–10 days. This is not surprising in that Schnucks, by sheer number of stores (66), is the dominant salad bar operator in the St. Louis metropolitan area," continued the release.
A state news release indicates that of the 17 food samples taken from victims' homes and Schnucks, none contained the E. coli bacteria or its harmful byproduct, shiga toxin.
Bolnick said the St. Charles County health department continues its regular inspections of area restaurants and food service facilities.
He said anyone experiencing symptoms from this strain of E. coli should seek medical attention immediately. The symptoms are:
- Bloody diarrhea
- Severe nausea and stomach cramping
“The best thing people can do to protect themselves is to maintain proper hygiene,” Bolnick said. “Employees that work for restaurants and food providers need to practice proper hygiene and food preparation.”
That includes taking the following precautions.
- Wash your hands before eating.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly after bringing them home from the store.
- Store food at proper temperatures.
- Cook foods thoroughly and ensure they reach proper cooking temperatures.
- Maintain foods at their proper temperatures when storing and serving.