A cluster of E. coli infections have been reported locally in the past week, Manitowoc County Health Officer James Blaha told the Herald Times-Reporter.

The source of the infections has yet to be determined, Blaha said. He said there has been an increase in reported E. coli cases statewide.

E. coli is a bacteria that causes severe abdominal cramping and diarrhea, which is often bloody. There is generally little or no fever associated with the illness. Infection is acquired by ingesting contaminated food or water, or by coming in contact with fecal material from infected people or animals. Blaha urges seeking medical attention if infected.

He said E. coli infections can be prevented by avoiding consumption of raw or undercooked beef, or drinking unpasteurized milk. Most importantly, people should wash their hands before preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom or after having contact with cattle.