In the last month Marler Clark, LLP PS, has been contacted by victims, mostly parents of young children, of E. coli O157:H7. The victims live in Colorado, New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington. The food they consumed is primarily hamburger, but lettuce has also been implicated. Outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 have also been announced in the last few days in Toledo, Ohio and Seattle, Washington. To borrow from Buffalo Springfield, “Something’s happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.”
A recent report (2005) released by the CDC in collaboration with the FDA and USDA showed important declines in foodborne infections due to common bacterial pathogens in 2004. From 1996-2004, the incidence of E. coli O157:H7 infections decreased 42 percent. Prior to the 2005 report, the CDC had estimated the E. coli O157:H7 sickened some 75,000 Americans yearly. However, these illnesses still do occur. What we know:
Over 18 people ill with E. coli after eating at a Bend, Oregon restaurant in mid-October. Although the restaurant is the source of the illnesses, the food item causing the outbreak is not yet known.
In Colorado a young boy contracted Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome and was hospitalized on life support. Although not conclusively linked, a recall of 900,000 pounds of contaminated hamburger occurred on September 27, 2005 did sicken at least one Colorado resident.
In Colorado a young woman contracted E. coli after eating hamburger that has been linked to the recall of hamburger produce in Georgia. FSIS has identified the plant as Flanders Provision Co.
In New York an eight year old girl consumed hamburger purchased at a supermarket in Glenwood, New York in late August. She suffered Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) and was on dialysis for over a week. The meat she consumed was found to be contaminated with the same strain of E. coli that was found in the girl’s stool culture. To date the meat produced has not been subject to a recall. The supermarket was also implicated in a recall of E. coli contaminated beef in July 2002.
In New Hampshire an eight year old boy consumed hamburger purchased in Manchester, New Hampshire in early September. He suffered HUS and was on dialysis for several days. The meat he consumed was found to be contaminated with the same strain of E. coli that was found in the boy’s stool culture. To date the meat produced has not been subject to a recall. The retail outlet where the meat was purchased has been implicated in recalls of E. coli contaminated beef in August 2000, August 2001 and August 2002.
In New Jersey a woman consumed hamburger manufactured by Murry’s Inc., a Lebanon, Pennsylvania firm. She suffered Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) and was hospitalized for over a week. The meat she consumed was found to be contaminated with the same strain of E. coli that was found in her stool culture. A recall of approximately 63,000 pounds of frozen ground beef was posted by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services arm in June.
In Minnesota 23 people have been sickened with E. coli, 8 of them hospitalized and 1 child developing HUS, all from eating bagged, “pre-washed” lettuce. According to the FDA, more that 245,000 bags of lettuce might be affected nationwide. An alert and recall has been launched. Some of the recalled lettuce has been found to be contaminated with the same E. coli that has sickened the 23 Minnesotans. We filed one lawsuit in Minnesota Federal Court on behalf of a woman hospitalized for over a week. We recently were contacted by a woman in Oregon who consumed the same lettuce and was hospitalized with a culture- confirmed E. coli illness.
In Ohio local, state and federal health investigators are trying to pinpoint the source of a recent outbreak of E. coli bacteria in Toledo. Fourteen people got sick in late August and early September, and one of them may have died from the bacteria. No new cases have been found, and a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health says the outbreak appears to be over.
In Washington more than a dozen people at a nursing home have become sick, and at least four have been confirmed with cases of E. coli, with one death tied to an assisted living facility. Health officials have not specified the source of the infection, but it appears that it might have been food-borne. We have been contacted by a woman who is a culture-positive match to the outbreak strain who was not a resident of the nursing home.
So, although the CDC seems to indicate that E. coli is on a downward trend, it seems that this nasty bug is determined to find its way into the bodies of unsuspecting consumers.