Peggy O’Farrell of the Dayton Daily News has become the latest in two decades of reporters who are thrust into the middle of yet another E. coli outbreak. This one, as she reports today, “claimed its first fatality Tuesday, a longtime area school superintendent known for his dedication to children. Lowell Draffen, 73, of Germantown, was one of at least 75 people sickened after consuming food served at a July 3 customer appreciation picnic at Neff’s Lawn Care in German Twp. He retired in 2010 as superintendent of Trotwood-Madison City Schools, and had also been superintendent at Valley View and Mad River schools.”
As the health department announced, “two others remain hospitalized — a 4-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy. A total of 14 people have been hospitalized, and health officials still do not know the cause of the contamination.”
I spoke to Ms. O’Farrell early this morning after the news of Mr. Draffen’s death was announced:
Bill Marler, managing partner for Marler Clark, a Seattle law firm that specializes in foodborne illness outbreaks, said he found it “a little perplexing” that investigators hadn’t identified the source of the outbreak three weeks after the event.
Marler handled lawsuits filed after a 1993 E. coli outbreak tied to 73 Jack in the Box restaurants that sickened 700 people in Washington state, California, Nevada and Idaho. Four people died in that outbreak, which was linked to beef that wasn’t cooked to the proper temperature.
“It’s obviously a significant, significant outbreak you’re dealing with,” Marler said.
Yet, every preventable outbreak and preventable death is significant. Not far from my mind – especially in an E. coli outbreak in Ohio – is the needless loss of Abby Fenstermaker. I think about her and her parents alot: