Contracting the bacteria typically comes from ingesting contaminated food or water.
Because E. coli lives and thrives in the intestines, it enters the environment through fecal matter like cow manure. Meat can be contaminated when it comes into contact with even microscopic amounts of that manure. Just 10 E. coli bacteria are enough to make a person sick
"I think we've given up on the concept that we're going to cook our meat to 165 degrees," said Dan Thomson, a veterinary epidemiologist at Kansas State University. "If people would wash their hands, not contaminate raw meat with other food, and cook it to the proper temperature, this would be a non-issue."
ABCNews.com contributor Charlie Litton is a member of the ABC News on Campus bureau in Lincoln, Neb.