The Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) has identified a fourth case in the E. coli outbreak in Louisiana. The E. coli outbreak recently claimed the life of a child and has now sickened three adults in the Greater New Orleans area.

The four Louisiana cases are E. coli O145, which produces an aggressive toxin and has been linked through DNA fingerprinting to cases in other states. The Louisiana cases occurred in late April and early May 2012.

LDH epidemiologists suspect food may be to blame for the outbreak and are working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify the exact source. "Most people infected with this strain of E. coli will experience some form of gastrointestinal illness with diarrhea," said Dr. Raoult Ratard, Louisiana state epidemiologist. "People more seriously affected by the disease may have blood in their stool, fever and become extremely fatigued. If you suspect you are infected, see your doctor immediately," said Dr. Ratard.

A person may become infected with E. coli by ingesting the bacteria. This usually occurs when an individual eats food contaminated with E. coli, but can also be transmitted person-to-person. Food-borne illnesses are often discounted by the general public as benign, but this is a reminder that they can have extremely serious consequences. "The best prevention is always to handle and prepare food in a manner that minimizes the presence of harmful germs," said Dr. Ratard.

LDH encourages everyone to take the following precautions to reduce the risk of becoming infected:

  • Avoid eating high-risk foods, especially undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk or juice and soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk.
  • Make sure you wash carefully vegetables that will be consumed raw as raw produce can also become contaminated in the fields where they grow.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure that meats have reached a safe internal temperature, and be certain that meats are cooked thoroughly.
  • Wash hands before preparing food, after using bathrooms or diapering infants, before eating, and after contact with domestic animals, their food or treats, or their living environment.
  • Make sure, through hand-washing, to avoid carrying germs from raw meat products to food that will be consumed raw (produce).

For more information on how you and your family can eat safely, visit LDH's Eat Safe Louisiana website at

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.