Some rumors are tough to kill. But the rumor that the town of Pine is in the midst of an E. coli outbreak has been unusually hard to quash, according to Missy Spencer, Assistant CEO of Payson Regional Medical Hospital.
"We're still getting calls about it," Spencer said, "but the fact is, not a single case of dangerous E. coli has been confirmed in our laboratory. And as far as I know, we've never seen one."
Gail Phylow, the family nurse practitioner at the Pine-Strawberry Medical Center, echoed Spencer's words.
"We have not had anyone come in with (dangerous) E. coli," said Phylow. "We have seen viral-related illnesses among about 20 people who ate at the same Pine restaurant at approximately the same time, but we think those might have been caused by an employee who perhaps handled food without washing his hands. They were not caused by the bad E. coli."
The good form of E. coli is always present in the human body along with other species of bacteria which, together, provide many necessary vitamins.
The "bad" strain mentioned by Phylow is E. coli O157:H7, which causes hemorrhaging and loss of blood, and is particularly dangerous to small children and the elderly.
But even when there are confirmed outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 usually caused by the bacteria's presence in undercooked meat and unpasteurized fruit juices it can be avoided and contained.
Reduce the risk
According to a consensus of information gathered from various medical sites on the Internet, the risk of infection from E.coli O157:H7 can be greatly reduced by following these rules:
Always clean any surface that has come in contact with raw meat, before any other item is placed on that surface.
Always thoroughly wash your hands after handling raw meat, and before you handle any other utensils or other food items.
Never use the same plate, tray or utensils for the cooked meat that you use for the raw meat unless you thoroughly wash the items between uses.
Always cook meat, especially ground meat, until the juices run absolutely clear; pink is not good enough. In fact, it is necessary for the internal temperature of a hamburger pattie to reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit to kill all of any contaminating E. coli.
Small children with diarrhea should be carefully handled and kept separate from other children. All diapers and soiled clothing should be kept separate from other children.
If you suspect that someone in your family has contracted E. coli O157:H7 particularly if the person is an infant, a small child, or an elderly or infirm adult look for signs of bloody or, in children, watery stool. If either is present, contact a physician immediately.
However, chances are very high that E. coli O157:H7 is not the culprit.