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CNN Today

Food and Water Preparation Best Protection Against E. coli

Aired May 26, 2000 - 1:03 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: At its worst, E. coli ravages its victims' kidneys and there's no reliable cure.

CNN medical correspondent Linda Ciampa now tells us where the bug comes from and how you can avoid it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LINDA CIAMPA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): E. coli bacteria usually live harmlessly in the intestines of animals and humans, but one type, called E. coli O157:H7, can cause serious illness. Seven years ago, Nancy Donely learned about E. coli the hardest way possible. Her son died after eating an undercooked hamburger contaminated with E. coli.

NANCY DONELY, SAFE TABLES OUR PRIORITY: I had always assumed that government and industry were doing everything that they could to protect our food supply and make it safe. I had no idea until my son Alex died there was anything to be afraid of in food.

CIAMPA: E. coli is usually linked to undercooked ground beef, but it has been found on fruits and vegetables, in unpasteurized fruit juices, and in drinking water. E. coli has also been transmitted through shallow swimming pools and lakes.

CAROLINE SMITH DEWAAL, CENTER FOR SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: It is a very deadly bacteria, but it lives in the intestinal track of cattle. So the source of all of these outbreaks really, at the start, is cattle.

CIAMPA: E. coli O157:H7 can make its way into the water supply if cow manure from a farmer's field leaks into wells that supply the area. That happened last August in New York when hundreds of people who attended a county fair became sick from the bacteria. It was the state's largest E. coli outbreak ever.

DEWAAL: It's clear that well water sometimes can be inadequately chlorinated and this can expose hundreds of thousands of people to the deadly E. coli bacteria.

CIAMPA: The best way to protect yourself: use a thermometer to make sure cooked ground beef reaches 160 degrees; wash fruits and vegetables; drink only pasteurized juice and milk; and if you are concerned about your drinking water, boil it for one minute at a rolling boil. Those at greatest risk for developing severe symptoms from E. coli include the very young, the very old, and anyone with a weakened immune system.

Linda Ciampa, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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