CONCORD, NH – Officials with the New Hampshire Dept. of Health and Human Services are investigating an outbreak of E. coli O157: H7 that has been linked to ground beef.

Since June, at least 12 individuals have been sickened by the same strain of the pathogen after eating ground beef, the agency reported. The case patients became sick after eating ground beef at different locations. DPHS and the US Dept. of Agriculture are working to identify the source of the tainted ground beef.

“The Division of Public Health Services is working with our federal partners to investigate the source of the ground beef that is causing people in New Hampshire to become ill,” Marcella Bobinsky, acting director of DPHS, said in a statement. “Ground beef is a known source of E. coli, and it is important for people to avoid eating under-cooked ground beef whether at home or at a restaurant. Young children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to severe illness with this infection.”

Ground beef should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160°F or 70°C. Also, consumers should thoroughly wash their hands, counters, cutting boards and utensils after touching raw meat to avoid cross-contamination.

E. coli O157: H7 can cause severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting. Most people recover within five to seven days. However, very young children and the elderly especially are vulnerable to hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially life-threatening complication.