Over this past weekend, a number of Michigan State University students were hospitilized with severe gastrointestinal issues. The school and Ingham County Health Department immediately began an investigation as all the students were on-campus residents.
Here in Lansing, a total of 10 cases were identified with seven students being hospitilized over the weekend. As no new cases have been reported since Friday, officials believe the outbreak may be over. However, as many people who have such symptoms- nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps- don’t seek medical attention, its possible more students were sick. Actually, its really possible more students were affected by this than will ever be known. Consider how likely one is to chalk-up a nasty stomache to too much cheap beer the night before (Schlitz’s Light Ice comes to mind- do they still make that stuff?).
Tests confirmed today that at least three of the illnesses were caused by E. coli O157:H7, the really bad version of E. coli.
The book, Fast Food Nation talks a lot about E. coli O157:H7. E. coli in general is found all over the place. It lives in your intestines, peacefully. But there are some rogue strains and O157:H7 is the mother of them all. Most outbreaks are associated with ground beef however, you can also get E. coli O157:H7 from unpasteurized milk, contact with contaminated water, eating contaminated vegetables and even from another infected human.
As of today, Thursday, at least 4 more cases have been identified. Health officials continue to investigate but have not identified a likely source. As noted above, the first batch of sick students were all campus residents. It would seem probable that the school cafeterias are the focus of the investigation. The MSU student ID is linked to an account for food purchases and cafeteria use. It shouldn’t take long to figure out if the students all ate in the same place but figuring out what they all ate could be more difficult.
A message from MSU: If you become ill or have been ill with gastrointestinal symptoms in the last 10 days, especially bloody diarrhea, seek care and notify the Ingham County Health Department at (517) 887-4308