E. coli investigation continues into the weekend

Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2 | Apr 7, 2018 | MonroeNow

New Jersey health officials are continuing their investigating into an E. coli outbreak that has resulted in eight people in Middlesex, Hunterdon, Somerset and Warren counties being hospitalized.

Though state officials have not made any positive confirmation about the source of E. coli exposure, a report from NJ.com said health officials are investigating a Panera Bread based in Phillipsburg, Warren County.

Health officials said late this week that the E. coli cases are possible linked to a restaurant chain, but have not made a final determination.

“The department is in the process of gathering food history data from those who have become ill,” the New Jersey Department of Health said in a report about the E. coli investigation released Thursday.

As of that report five of the eight people hospitalized have been released. Hunterdon County had the most confirmed E. coli cases with four, Middlesex and Warren each had one and Somerset had two.

State health officials said they are also working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health departments during the investigation. That review includes lab testing to determine the exact strains of E. coli and attempts to determine the “common food source that made people sick.”

“We’re working with the FDA district in New Jersey and our own investigators to trace back sources of food that individuals may have eaten as well as looking at records such as invoices …”

While many people who are infected with E. coli recover within five to seven days, state health officials said that the illness can be life-threatening.

Health officials recommend that they contact their physicians if they experience systems related to the illness such as diarrhea that lasts for more than three days or is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool or excessive vomiting that results in not being able to keep liquids down.

“It can be very difficult to determine where someone got sick. Individuals could have eaten a number of meals in a number of places before becoming ill. They could have eaten at several restaurants, at home or eaten food purchased at a supermarket,” the department said. “Sometimes the food source associated with illness is never determined. That’s why we conduct many interviews with sick individuals to get food history data and work with food safety officials to investigate food sources.”