Health department pinpoints cause of College Station's E. coli cases to restaurant

May 21, 2013 3:40:36 PM PDT
Two young brothers are recovering after getting sick from the bacteria from an E. coli outbreak that sickened a family in College Station. Investigators believe they've pinpointed the cause, and the health department in Bryan released those findings Tuesday afternoon.

The source of the outbreak was traced to ground beef from a College Station restaurant.

The Coco Loco restaurant across the street from Texas A&M served the ground beef that caused the illnesses, according to the Brazos County Health Department. The health director says five cases were confirmed and another five are suspected.

One of the two children at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston has been released. His 18-month-old brother had been upgraded to good condition. The adults had mild illnesses.

"The adults are from college age to early 50s. Everybody had diarrhea and then recovered spontaneously; didn't have any significant treatment," said Dr. Eric Wilke with the Brazos County Health Department.

Dr. Wilke says the restaurant is making changes to improve safety by adding gloves and logs for food temperature. He is not sure if the cause is undercooked ground beef or cross contamination.

"The two most likely things are either someone touched raw meat and then their hands didn't get clean and they touched other things and that's how it transmitted bacteria or some meat was undercooked," he said.

The restaurant has been inspected and found nothing serious.

Dr. Wilke calls this an unfortunate mistake by a single person and says the restaurant has cooperated fully. To make a point about how safe he believes the restaurant is, he bought his lunch from Coco Loco and ate it on camera.

At home, he says cook meat well and wash vegetables.

"As long as humans are alive, there will be bacteria. People get sick, so just doing these basic things can really help reduce that," Dr. Wilke said.

The Brazos County Health Department says it will increase their inspections at the restaurant but they believe this was an isolated incident.

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