Vermont health officials said they are investigating a cluster of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections in patrons that ate at Worthy Burger in South Royalton, VT.
As of Tuesday, five individuals have been confirmed STEC positive. In addition, two probable cases have been identified. No hospitalizations or deaths have been reported.
Local media report that Jason Merrill, executive chef at Worthy Burger, said the Vermont Department of Health approached the restaurant’s leadership team last week and asked them to consider changing some of their food vendors out of precaution.
“They haven’t told me which ones they wanted me to change, so I changed pretty much all of my vendors,” Merrill said, noting he uses six or seven area farms to supply ingredients for the menu at Worthy Burger, which specializes in locally sourced food.
The investigation is ongoing as health officials try to pinpoint the source of the infections.
STEC is a bacterial infection that can cause abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and bloody diarrhea. Symptoms can be severe resulting in dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. A complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome can occur, in which red blood cells are damaged. These damaged red blood cells can cause kidney damage and kidney failure. People usually get sick within 3 to 4 days from the time of infection, but it can take as long as 10 days for symptoms to appear. People who have symptoms of STEC should consult with their health care provider.
STEC is shed in the stool of infected animals and people. STEC infections can result from eating contaminated food, drinking contaminated water, coming into contact with animals that are carrying STEC and can be spread from person to person through inadequate hygiene. Undercooked meats, especially ground beef, contaminated produce or sprouts and attending petting zoos have all been implicated in STEC outbreaks in the United States. Animals may be infected and not have symptoms but can shed the bacteria.