Boston E. coli Illnesses Appear be Part of Multi-State Outbreak

An outbreak of the highly toxic strain of E. coli O157:H7 in the Boston area appears to be part of a multi-state outbreak that has sickened more than 50 people in seven states. The E. coli in the six confirmed illnesses in Boston has the same genetic fingerprint as the illnesses in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, New York, Georgia, and Utah. Those illnesses have been traced to contaminated beef from Nebraska Beef, Ltd. of Omaha.

“This outbreak has put people into Intensive Care Units,” said food safety advocate and attorney William Marler. “The meat inspection system has somehow come completely off the rails, with more than 40 million tons of contaminated beef recalled in just the last year and a half. As scary as that number is, what’s even scarier is that only a tiny percentage of that recalled meat is actually recovered, and people are still getting sick. Outrage isn’t enough—we need reform, and we need it immediately.”

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.

The first symptom of E. coli infection is the onset of abdominal pain and severe cramps, followed within 24 hours by bloody diarrhea. This is hemorrhagic colitis, and it typically occurs within 2 to 5 days of ingestion of E. coli; however the incubation period—the time between the ingestion of E. coli bacteria and the onset of illness—may be as broad as 1 to 10 days.

“If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it is critical to visit your healthcare provider, because an E. coli infection can make you very, very sick,” Marler continued. “In some instances E. coli infection can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a cause of acute kidney failure, so make sure you know what you’re dealing with.”

Detailed information on E. coli infection, symptoms, and treatment can be found on the website