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U.S. Food Safety: Foodborne Illnesses a Menu for Disaster
Date:1/15/2008

Main offenders are bacterial, and they can strike at any time

TUESDAY, Jan. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Foodborne illness can strike at any time and be caused by any number of different pathogens. Here is a rundown of the most common bacterial offenders, and what you can do to protect yourself:

E. COLI 0157:H7

There are many strains of the bacteria known as Escherichia coli, or E. coli. Most are harmless, four or five can cause disease, and one, in particular, can be fatal.

E. Coli 0157:H7 has been implicated in several deadly outbreaks. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 73,000 infections and 61 deaths are attributable to E. coli 0157:H7 each year in the United States, not as much as other pathogens, but infinitely more high-profile.

"E. coli 0157:H7 is the media star, but it's actually not that many cases per year," said Helene Andrews-Polymenis, an assistant professor of microbial and molecular pathogenesis at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.

Most human infections result from eating uncooked ground beef (cattle carry the pathogen in their intestines without getting sick). It can also be acquired from consuming contaminated dairy products, vegetables, unpasteurized juice, person-to-person contact, and swimming in or drinking water contaminated with sewage. The bacteria also lives in deer, goats and sheep and is a permanent resident of many petting zoos.

Infection with E. coli 0157:H7 can result in bloody diarrhea lasting two to eight days and sometimes even kidney failure. There are ways to prevent transmission of the bacteria, namely good food hygiene.

"There's always going to be a small risk, but practicing good food hygiene is your best defense," said Andrews-Polymenis.

SALMONELLA

Salmonella, another bacteria, can cause bloody diarrhea in humans. Some 40,000
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