E. coli O103 Outbreak linked to Ground Beef
E. coli outbreak linked to ground beef. At this time there is no common supplier, distributer, or brand of ground beef identified as the cause of outbreak.
CDC, several states, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O103 infections. This investigation includes E. coli O103 infections recently reported by the Kentucky Department of Public Health.
Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. PulseNet is the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by CDC. DNA fingerprinting is performed on E. coli bacteria isolated from ill people by using techniques called pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS). CDC PulseNet manages a national database of these DNA fingerprints to identify possible outbreaks. WGS gives a more detailed DNA fingerprint than PFGE. WGS performed on E. coli from ill people in this outbreak showed that they are closely related genetically. This means that the ill people are more likely to share a common source of infection.
As of April 23, 2019, 156 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O103 have been reported from ten states – Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia. CDC is reporting the 156 illnesses that PulseNet has confirmed are part of this outbreak. States are investigating additional illnesses that might be a part of this outbreak.
Illnesses started on dates from March 2, 2019, to March 26, 2019. Ill people range in age from 1 to 83 years, with a median age of 19. Fifty percent are female. Of 127 people with information available, 20 (16%) have been hospitalized. No deaths and no cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) have been reported.
This investigation is still ongoing and a specific food item, grocery store, or restaurant chain has not been identified as the source of infections. State and local public health officials are interviewing ill people to determine what they ate and other exposures in the week before their illness started.
“Exposure to E. coli bacteria can be debilitating and potentially life-threatening, especially for small children and individuals with weakened immune systems,” Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Jeffrey Howard said last week. “With this in mind, the Department for Public Health has taken swift action to identify patients, ensure appropriate testing, and follow-up care as we work to determine the source of the outbreak.”
Also, health care providers across the state “have been alerted to this potential threat and are working with us to make sure patients are identified and are receiving appropriate care,” he said. “Meanwhile, we encourage all Kentuckians to be aware of the signs and symptoms of E. coli illness and to seek care if they are ill.”
People generally become ill two to five days after consuming tainted food, according to the department. Symptoms of infection include stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is sometimes bloody.
It’s also possible to develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The condition requires hospitalization because the kidneys may stop working, according to the CDC.
“Clues that a person is developing HUS include decreased frequency of urination, feeling very tired and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids,” the CDC notes. “Most persons with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die.”
Outbreaks of E. coli O103 are rare. From the CDC NORS dataset:
|2000||Washington||Food||O103||Caterer (food prepared off-site from where served); Other||18|
|2011||Wisconsin||Animal Contact||O103; O157:H7||6|
|2013||Minnesota||Person-to-person||O103||Child day care||3|
|2014||Ohio||Indeterminate||O103||Child day care||3|
|2014||Multistate||Food||O103:H2||Restaurant – other or unknown type||12|
|2014||Ohio||Indeterminate||O103; O157:H7; O146:H21||Private home/residence||4|
|2015||Multistate||Food||O103||Restaurant – other or unknown type||4|
|2015||Multistate||Food||O103||Restaurant – other or unknown type||6|
|2015||Kansas||Person-to-person||O103||Child day care||12|
|2015||North Carolina||Person-to-person||O103||Child day care||20|
|2015||Ohio||Indeterminate||O103||Child day care||5|
|2017||Ohio||Person-to-person||O103||Child day care||4|
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If you or a family member became ill with an E. coli infection or HUS after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark E. coli attorneys for a free case evaluation.