Sick with E. coli?
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Elliot Olsen is a nationally prominent foodborne illness lawyer who has regained millions for clients. If you or a family member were sickened in this Kentucky outbreak, you might have cause to file a foodborne illness lawsuit. Please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.
Health officials said the Kentucky outbreak of E. coli illnesses has claimed at least 46 victims, more than doubling in a week, but the source of the outbreak is still unknown.
Barbara Fox, a spokesperson for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said six people have been hospitalized because of E. coli O103. She also said that cases, once limited mostly to central Kentucky, have been reported across the state.
A spokesperson for the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) said it believes contaminated food is the cause of the outbreak, based on interviews with those sickened.
Early alert to public
Fox said the DPH decided to alert the public so that those who have diarrhea that lasts longer than three days or those experiencing bloody diarrhea would know to see a health-care professional. That would result in more testing, which could lead to more confirmed cases that could help lead officials to the food source.
Determining a source is challenging and time-consuming, Fox said, and the more information available, the better.
More illnesses likely
People who have ingested food contaminated with E. coli usually become sick within two to five days. Confirming that an illness is part of a larger outbreak requires lab testing, and that can take two to three weeks. That’s why it’s highly likely that this outbreak will continue to grow.
Those who become ill with E. coli symptoms (see below) must try to recall what they ate weeks before in the days leading up to their illness. Officials then need to examine the cases for commonalities, of which there can be many.
“It is tough to pull out of that which few things are actually common to most people,” Fox told the Louisville Courier Journal in an email. “There are many things that are common to a lot of these cases, because many of them eat a lot of fast food.”
From 20 to 46 in a week
The Kentucky outbreak first made headlines on March 29, when the DPH announced that at least 20 Kentuckians had become ill. It first detected a possible increase in E. coli cases March 25, and two days after that, three cases were genetically matched.
The DPH alert to clinicians last week noted that many of the children who became sick had many exposures to fast food. That, however, doesn’t necessarily mean fast food was the source of the E. coli, Fox said.
E. coli symptoms
Anyone can become sick by eating food or drinking water contaminated with E. coli, but those with the highest risk of developing a serious complication – called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) – include young children, senior citizens, and anyone with a compromised immune system, most predominately pregnant women.
E. coli symptoms are similar to those of other types of food poisoning, and include any or all of the following:
- abdominal cramps
- diarrhea, which can become bloody
- lack of appetite
- decreased urination.
Approximately 10 percent of those infected with E. coli will develop HUS, and the majority of HUS cases involve children under the age of 5. As a matter of fact, the disease is the leading cause of acute kidney failure for that age group.
HUS generally develops after prolonged diarrhea, a week or longer. The disease damages red blood cells, which clog the kidneys’ filtering system. In the most serious cases of HUS, a kidney transplant might be necessary.
Elliot Olsen has decades of experience representing people harmed by food poisoning. You can contact him for a free consultation by filling out the following form and submitting it: