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HEALTH REPORT - August 7, 2002: Bacteria in Food - 2002-08-06

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

An American food company recently recalled about eight-million kilograms of ground beef that is used to make hamburgers. The meat had sickened at least twenty-six people in five states.

The beef contained the bacteria E. coli. The bacteria are passed from one person to another through infected solid human waste.

Most people with E. coli infections have pains in the stomach. They may have diarrhea – waste that is loose and watery instead of solid. Children under the age of five and older people might die if the bacteria destroy red blood cells and cause kidney failure.

Experts say people should drink only pasteurized milk that has been heated to kill bacteria. And people should drink only water that has been treated with chemicals to kill bacteria. They also say all ground beef should be cooked well to kill any bacteria that might be present.

Listeria are other dangerous bacteria spread in food. They are found naturally in the soil and water. Vegetables can become infected from the soil or from solid waste materials used as fertilizer. Unpasteurized milk may also contain the bacteria.

People suffering from listeria infection have a high body temperature, muscle aches and diarrhea. Experts say cooking all foods until they are very hot and washing uncooked vegetables can prevent the infection. They also say people who cook foods should always wash their hands and cooking tools after touching uncooked foods.

Other dangerous bacteria are salmonella. This infection is spread by eating foods that contain particles of animal waste. The victim gets a high fever, diarrhea and stomach pain. Salmonella infection can kill a person if it spreads through the bloodstream untreated. It can be prevented by making sure that eggs, chicken and meat are cooked well.

Campylobacter is yet another bacterial disease. It is spread by eating chicken or turkey meat that is not cooked well enough. It is also spread in unpasteurized milk or untreated water. Camplylobacter victims suffer stomach pains, diarrhea and fever for about one week. Experts say the best way to prevent infection is to cook meat well and make sure that the liquid from uncooked meat does not touch other foods.

Doctors say most of these bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotic medicines in severe cases.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach.