August 2005

During the ten years between 1989 and 1999, recreational water venues were associated with approximately 170 outbreaks. Of those outbreaks, nearly half resulted in gastrointestinal illness from such pathogens as Cryptosporidium, E. coli O157:H7, and Shigella.
In 1997, 369 people, mostly children, became ill with Cryptosporidiosis after playing in a water fountain at a Minnesota zoo. In 1999, at least 38 people became ill with Cryptosporidium or Shigella infections after playing in a spray fountain at a beachside park. Like the outbreak that recently sickened nearly 2,000 people at Seneca Lake State Park in New York, previous outbreaks were preventable.
“While the New York State Health Department has confirmed the presence of Cryptosporidium in storage tanks that supply water to the spray fountain, it is not clear as to whether a filtration system was in place that could have prevented, or at least lessened the extent, of this outbreak,” said William Marler, an attorney who has represented victims of outbreaks traced to contaminated water. “Even if a filtration system was in place, it seems that it was not properly maintained.”
In the June 30, 1999 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made the following recommendations:
To reduce risk for contamination and disease transmission, persons visiting recreational water venues should
1) avoid entering a traditional pool or playing in an interactive fountain if they have diarrhea;
2) avoid swallowing pool or fountain water;
3) practice good hygiene by taking a soap and water shower at home or at the pool, especially after a bowel movement and before entering the water;
4) escort young children to the toilet frequently and clean their bottoms thoroughly before allowing them to resume play;
5) avoid sitting on or over fountain jets because this can increase the risk for water contamination; and
6) take precautions not to contaminate foods or beverages consumed in or near the bathing area with pool or fountain water. Parents should be aware that no diaper (including swim diapers or swim pants) completely prevents stool leakage. If diapered children are to play in waterparks, diapers should be changed immediately after a bowel movement in restrooms where hands and bottoms can be washed thoroughly with soap and water.
Marler’s Seattle law firm, Marler Clark (http://www.marlerclark.com) and the Rochester firm of Underberg & Kessler (http://www.underberg-kessler.com), together represented most of the victims of the Brook-Lea Country Club Salmonella outbreak of 2002.

As the Associated Press reported yesterday, more than 9,000 people who received shots to ward off hepatitis A after an outbreak at a Chi-Chi’s restaurant will be mailed forms later this month so they can claim their share of an $800,000 class-action settlement.
The federal judge overseeing Chi-Chi’s bankruptcy last month approved a schedule to mail the notices by Aug. 24 to the 9,489 people who got immune globulin shots from the Pennsylvania Department of Health after the outbreak was publicized in early November 2003.
More than 600 people were sickened, and four eventually died, from eating tainted green onions served at the Beaver County Chi-Chi’s. Health officials urged shots for family members of people who became ill, as well as those who ate in the restaurant in the weeks leading up to the outbreak.
The settlement doesn’t cover anybody who filed a lawsuit over damages or death. More than 550 people, and all four families of those who died, also filed claims for out-of-pocket medical expenses and/or for more serious damages. All but a handful of those cases – including all four wrongful death suits – have settled for a total of about $40 million.
The $800,000 class-action settlement is separate and meant to compensate those whose damages were limited to the inconvenience of having to get a shot.
That money will be divided equally between everyone who files a claim form postmarked by the Oct. 24 deadline, so the value of the claims depends on how many are made. For example, if 3,000 claims are filed, each will be worth about $266.

Marler Clark has filed an E. coli lawsuit was filed Monday in Multnomah County Circuit Court (Case No. 05-080796-3) against the Olive Garden Italian Restaurant. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jodi Greer, a Troutdale, Oregon resident who became ill with an E. coli infection after eating at the restaurant’s Gresham store in April 2005.
The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Greer dined at the Gresham Olive Garden on April 19, 2005, and became ill with an E. coli infection on April 21. The complaint states that Ms. Greer suffered severe gastrointestinal symptoms including bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever, chills, muscle aches, and fatigue. Ms. Greer was treated at the Providence Portland Medical Center ER on April 22. She later submitted a stool sample to the Multnomah County Health Department (MCHD) that cultured positive for Enterotoxigenic E. coli – E. coli O169:H41. During their outbreak investigation, the MCHD determined that Ms. Greer was one of at least 18 people who succumbed to E. coli after eating at the Olive Garden.
“We generally associate E. coli O157:H7 with illness in the United States, but Enterotoxigenic strains of E. coli, such as the strain that Jodi was infected with, can also cause human illness,” said Drew Falkenstein, an attorney with Marler Clark. “International travelers often become ill with such strains of E. coli when visiting under-developed countries. We certainly don’t expect the bacteria to contaminate our country’s food supply though.”
“People don’t go out to eat at a chain restaurant and expect to get sick,” Mr. Falkenstein continued. “Olive Garden owed a duty to Jodi, and to all of its other customers, to sell food that was safe for human consumption, and the restaurant failed to perform that duty.”