2006_12_health_tacosauce.jpgIt seems that the e. coli that's been hanging out at a few New Jersey Taco Bells this week has joined the bridge and tunnel crowd, making its way over to New York. At least 14 people in Suffolk and Nassau Counties in Long Island are being treated for the infection, bringing the New Jersey/New York total to at least 39. While there is no definite link between the incidents in both states, eight Taco Bells have voluntarily closed down in Long Island for inspection with nine of the victims from Suffolk County having eaten there recently. Investigators say that since the initial infection likely took place weeks ago, it is difficult to actually identify the culprit food. But either way, the closed restaurants are being sanitized and all of their food supplies are being replaced. Officials think that the threat has probably passed, since there hasn't been a new infection since November 29th (no New York City locations have reported an e.coli outbreaks, but who knows how long food lasts at Taco Bell?).

As we posted yesterday, e.coli is normally a harmless bacteria which lives in the intestines of humans and farm animals. However, certain strains are more virulent, leading to a range of illnesses from traveler's diarrhea to frank organ failure. Most infections are acquired from eating undercooked meat or vegetables - like in the spinach scare earlier this year.

Symptoms (fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea) typically appear 3-8 days after contact. And a list of the affected Long Island restaurants is here.