A University of Colorado student infected with E. coli O157:H7 filed suit yesterday in the District Court of Boulder County (copy of complaint).

On the weekend of September 20 and 21 2008, Ms. Pendelton’s sorority purchased sandwiches from Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches and served them to members. On September 23, Ms. Pendelton began to experience severe gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea; by September 24, her diarrhea had become bloody. On September 26, Ms. Pendelton sought medical care at the emergency room, where she was hydrated, given pain medication, and released. Overnight, her symptoms continued to worsen and when she returned to the hospital on September 27, she was admitted. She remained hospitalized until October 2, where her E. coli O157:H7 infection was confirmed. She continues to experience symptoms of her illness.

Boulder County Health officials have linked Ms. Pendelton and 17 other local E. coli infections to the Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches restaurant located at 1125 13th Street in Boulder, Colorado. Many of the ill are students.

“This outbreak underscores the ominous trend in E. coli cases that we have seen in the United States since the spring of 2007,” said Ms. Pendelton’s attorney William Marler. “According to the CDC, there were several years where E. coli cases declined by nearly 40%. Unfortunately, that positive trend has disappeared.”

E. coli is often contracted by consuming food or beverage that has been contaminated by animal (especially cattle) manure. The majority of food borne E. coli outbreaks has been traced to contaminated ground beef; however leafy vegetables that have been contaminated in fields or during processing have been increasingly identified as the source of outbreaks, as have unpasteurized milk and cheese, unpasteurized apple juice and cider, alfalfa and radish sprouts, orange juice, and even water. There have also been outbreaks associated with petting zoos and agricultural fairs.

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