Within the last year, there has been a wave of apparent food-borne illness outbreaks in North Alabama. Recent food illnesses include similar groups of the bacteria, Salmonella and several different types of the common bacteria Escherichia coli, or E. coli. &quot;When it comes to bacteria the hotter and steamier the weather the more rapid the germs grow,&quot; said Dr. Louise C. O'Keefe, assistant professor of nursing at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) College of Nursing. But, O'Keefe pointed out that the biggest culprit of food-borne illnesses are unwashed hands. She recommends washing hands thoroughly with warm soapy water for a full 30 seconds, but not less than 20 seconds. &quot;Hand sanitizers will do in a pinch, but when you're preparing raw meat to cook, there is no substitute for soap and water,&quot; she said. Additionally, O'Keefe advises all fresh whole fruit and vegetables be washed before eating as well.