In the past few months, authorities have identified 14 people in six states (Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee) as being sickened by the same strain of E. coli. This strain, STEC-O145 (Shiga toxin-producing E. coli), is less common than STEC-O157. Often referred to as Non-O157 E. coli, this current strain is less likely to cause severe illness, yet in the current outbreak three people have been hospitalized and a 21-month-old girl has died. Officials from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintain that there is no reason for great concern, but there is a reason for increased awareness.
Young children, pregnant women, elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems are at a greater risk for severe illness or death when affected by E. coli. Symptoms of E. coli infection can include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. A common complication, particularly in children, is hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is characterized by hemolytic anemia (low red blood cell count), thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) and renal failure (kidney damage).
The cause of this outbreak is still unknown, but there are measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of infection:
• Wash hands frequently while preparing food
• Wash hands after using the bathroom or coming into contact with animals or their environments
• To avoid cross-contamination of food preparation areas, wash cutting boards, counters, and utensils with soap and hot water
• When preparing food, cook meat to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit
• Try to avoid consuming raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices
• While swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, and swimming pools, avoid swallowing the water
When there is an outbreak epidemiologists at the local, state and federal level get involved to try to determine the source of the outbreak. We have worked with experts in the public and private sectors to pinpoint the source of our clients’ food-borne illnesses to make sure that the entities responsible for the tainted food are held accountable.