Posted on November 2nd, 2011 by Zane Cagle
The Health Department is continuing to search for the source of an E. Coli outbreak in St. Louis that has sickened 28 people already, with more cases expected. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that many people who have reported falling ill have reported that they have eaten food from a local grocer’s salad bar in the recent past. Health officials caution, however, that not everyone sickened reported eating such food, so it is not clear that food from the salad bar is responsible for the sickness. Fox 2 News additionally reports that the grocer has voluntarily pulled food from its salad bars, even though only the following five stores have been linked to the illness. Thus far, no food has been definitively linked with the bacteria; none of the items taken from the salad bars in question have tested positive, nor have strawberries taken from two victim’s respective homes.
This outbreak comes on the heels of an E. coli outbreak in Germany that killed 16 people in the spring and summer. That infection was caused by fenugreek sprouts infected with the bacteria. This was a particularly virulent strain that affected mostly adults, and led to a higher number than normal of kidney problems. It also affected more women than men. It was determined that the contamination occurred in Egypt, where feces came into contact with fenugreek seeds, either in storage or in shipping. Europeans who ate the sprouts grown from those seeds them because infected with this unusual strain of E. coli. It also follows an E.coli outbreak from cantaloupes and beef that killed 13 people in the United States.
E. coli is a strain of bacteria that is known as a “got flora,” living in the lower intestines of warm blood organisms. Humans normally have E. coli present in their respective bodies, as most strains are harmless, and can perhaps even be beneficial. Certain strains, however, can make people sick, such as the strain currently making its way around St. Louis. This harmful strain is spread through fecal contamination at some point the food distribution process. Currently, because it is unknown what is causing this sickness, it’s unknown where in the food distribution chain the bacteria originates. E. coli can live on plastic surfaces for up to 60 days if the conditions are right and the surface is not properly cleaned. Until it is known which food is causing this outbreak, it is best to take extra precautions when preparing food.
If you have eaten food from a local grocer’s salad bar, or if you fall into a high risk category (an elderly person, a young child, or someone with a compromised immune system), extra must be taken if symptoms begin to manifest. The major symptoms will be stomach pain and bloody diarrhea. For someone of normal health, this will pass in about 10 days, if only stomach pain and diarrhea is reported. In some cases, especially amongst the high risk categories listed above, the disease can cause red blood cell damage and kidney damage. This only happens in about 1 in 50 cases, but can prove to be fatal without treatment. If a person suddenly has diarrhea with blood present, they should see a doctor immediately. A stool sample will test to see if the person has been infected by the bacteria, and prescribe a treatment program appropriate for the patient.
Zane T. Cagle and The Cagle Law Firm seek to help inform the community about dangers to their health. In some instances, food distributors can be help liable for contaminated food. Be sure to clean all surfaces in areas such as kitchens and bathrooms and certainly before any type of food preparation. It is also important to wash your hands frequently in warm, disinfectant soap and use sanitizer when not able to wash. These are good suggestions during the cold and flu season to decrease your likelihood of infection. Call today at 1.800.716.2621 for a free consultation or more information.