The recent outbreak of E-coli in Europe has killed 35 and health authorities fear the death toll could rise as victims still remain hospitalized. Authorities are hopeful that the outbreak is waning as fewer cases are cropping up.
According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that 3,255 people have become ill from the Escherichia coli O157:H7 bacteria.
There are many strains of the bacterial and most strains are harmless while others can cause serious food poisoning. The Escherichia coli O157:H7 strain is one of the most virulent and deadly forms.
How is E-coli O157:H7 different?
Escherichia coli O157:H7 often causes bloody diarrhea and, in some cases, it can lead to kidney failure. The young, elderly people and people with compromised immune systems are the most vulnerable to this sometimes deadly complication.
E-coli O157:H7 is so virulent because it releases Shiga-like toxins.
How is it transmitted?
Though E-coli O157:h7 is rare; it can live in the intestines of some cattle. It is transmitted when food or water is contaminated and is then ingested.
Scientists have found it to be virulent; a small amount of the virus can cause infection.
While this recent outbreak involved sprouts, undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk and juices, raw produce and salami have been culprit in other outbreaks. Waterborne transmission can occur from contaminated lakes or pools.
The organism is often spread from person-to-person and outbreaks have occurred at day care centers where the illness spreads quickly and through a group of people.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of E-coli O157:H7 is bloody diarrhea and acute abdominal cramps. Fever is not usually associated with the illness.
In 2-7% of those infected, the E-coli infection causes hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) which is a syndrome in which the red blood cells are damaged, the person has a low platelet count and renal (kidney) failure occurs. This is a medical emergency and 5-10% of those with this severe complication succumb to the disease.
How is it diagnosed?
Besides the obvious symptoms, E-coli infection is confirmed through the testing of a stool culture.
What is the treatment?
The treatment for E-coli calls for victims with the severe form to be hospitalized so they may receive fluid and antibiotics as well as anti diarrheal medications.
When the patient has HUS, they are usually placed in an intensive care unit and receive blood transfusions and kidney dialysis.
Recent Outbreaks in the U.S.
In 2009, approximately 66 people were sickened by an outbreak which was believed to be from contaminated Nestle Toll House cookie dough.
In 2007, there were several outbreaks due to ground beef and Topps Meat Company and United Food Group did a massive recall of ground beef.
In 2006, there were two significant E-coli O157:H7 outbreaks. The first was thought to be traced to green onions served by Taco Bell and the second is bagged spinach.
In 2002, ground beef was the culprit in an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Western states including Washington.
When do I need a personal injury attorney?
In cases where a person has become severely ill due to a foodborne illness causing hospitalization or when a person has died, the family may contact a personal injury attorney to determine whether another party is responsible for for paying medical costs and other costs associated with the severe illness.
One example was in 1993 when four children died of HUS as a complication of E-Coli O157:H7 bacteria contracted at Jack in the Box restaurants in the Seattle area. In those cases, it was determined that undercooked hamburger patties was the cause of the illness. Jack in the Box was liable because they did not follow Washington state law that required that hamburgers be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 155 °F.
The Farber Law Group was able one victim of the illness receive a compensation for their illness. And, Jack in the Box restaurants became a leader in food safety and subsequently received awards for food safety and quality.
This information is provided by Washington Injury Attorney blog, a service of The Farber Law Group. We represent people who have become seriously ill due to foodborne illness the family of those who have died.