E. coli cases spike in 3 counties including in Oakland, alarming health officials

Illustration of E. coli bacteria. E. coli bacteria carrying the mcr -1 gene was found in a urine sample from a patient in Pennsylvania in May 2016. (CDC)

A recent series of E. coli bacteria infections in Michigan have health officials worried about the "alarming" increase in the number of cases.

The Michigan health department has recorded 98 cases of the bacteria-tied illness in August which have been concentrated in Kent, Ottawa, and Oakland counties. 

While health officials usually see an increase in E. coli cases in the summer as people recreate in water more frequently, the recent spike in cases is five times higher than it was in 2021.

"While reports of E. coli illness typically increase during the warmer summer months, this significant jump in cases is alarming," said Chief Medical Executive Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian. "This is a reminder to make sure to follow best practices when it comes to hand hygiene and food handling to prevent these kinds of foodborne illness."

There's currently 11 closures or contamination advisories at Michigan beaches around the state that are linked to high bacteria levels. 

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Three of the closures were reported in Southeast Michigan lakes, including two in Oakland County and one in Washtenaw County. Independence Lake near Dexter was first shutdown Thursday for E. coli bacteria levels

Symptoms of an E. coli bacteria infection include stomach cramps, diarrhea that's often bloody, vomiting, and a fever. The symptoms usually appear three-to-four days after being exposed to the virus and typically subside within five to seven days. 

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Often times, the infection is mild, however the health department said some can become severe or even life-threatening. Seniors and young children are more likely to experience severe symptoms.

Prevention of an E. coli infection typically requires proper hand hygiene when handling food and being aware of potentially infected water bodies that could have the bacteria in it.