HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) With the recent Ecoli outbreak in six states across the nation, people are on high alert. According to reports 14 people have been sickened by the bacteria and one child has died.
Right now cases have been reported in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee and California. While experts try to put the pieces together as to what made people sick, doctors along the Grand Strand said they are encouraging people to take proactive steps when they are preparing food to avoid an Ecoli outbreak here at home.
Dr. Ron Reynolds of Beach Urgent Care says there is a wide range in severity of symptoms in Ecoli cases.
"It can be as simple as diarrheal illness but at the same point and time it can be extremely severe to the point where you'll have deaths from it," Dr. Reynolds said.
CCU Health Educator Jessica Lowery adds, "It is so sad to hear about that especially for young children. And I would just encourage any pregnant or nursing mother or any children under the age of 12 to be very cautious about what they are eating."
Lowery said concerns about food contamination prompted her to avoid restaurant food as well as bottled baby food for her 1-year-old daughter.
Lowery explains, "Buying the ingredients to go in what's preparing it. I know exactly what it is that she is consuming. All you really need is a food processor and buying vegetables and fruit in bulk. I process them and throw them in the ice cube tray and throw them in the freezer and pop them out when they're ready to be eaten."
Lowery said it is all about being proactive to make sure her family stays safe and healthy. Lowery added, "Just making sure I wash my hands, eating utensils, cutting boards, knives, making sure you have a separate cutting board for meat and vegetables. Making sure you cook food to proper temperature."
Dr. Reynolds said it really comes down to food preparation and handling. Dr. Reynolds stated, "Basically with Ecoli the two main groups you run into problems with are with meats, especially hamburger and then fruits. Basically because the water may have been contaminated that they might have been washed with prior to shipping."
One of the most important things to keep in mind is cleaning up after the food is prepared to avoid contamination. Lowery said, "Make sure you wipe it with disinfectant right away especially if you have raw meat in your hands that you are preparing. Make sure you wash the meat, the countertops, you wash the utensils, cutting boards."
Another tip from health experts is washing your hands. Dr. Reynolds said, "Really focus on the hand washing thing. It's all about that. Obviously there [are] all kinds of signs in the bathrooms when you're at restaurants."
Dr. Reynolds explained that this is the time of year when we start to see more Ecoli cases because warmer temperatures serve as a breeding ground for the bacteria.