The investigation by DPH, Department of Agriculture, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is continuing and expected to last several weeks. DPH, in collaboration with CDC, is planning additional studies to better understand the scope of the outbreak and specific risk factors for illness among persons who visited the farm.
Based on interviews of visitors to the farm conducted by DPH so far, there is no evidence that the milk, cheeses, caramels, lip balms, soaps, and salves sold by the Oak Leaf Dairy were the cause of this E. coli outbreak. The milk and cheese products were pasteurized. Pasteurization heats milk to a high temperature for a short time, which kills the bacteria that cause illness.
The patients range in age from 10 months to 45 years, officials said in a statement. The patients include six adults and 28 children 14 years old and under; 18 of the children are age five years or under. In total, nine patients have been hospitalized with four still in the hospital. Three of the hospitalized patients have been diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a rare but serious illness that affects the kidneys and blood clotting system.
The outbreak was first reported on March 24 when six out of seven E. coli cases were confirmed in patients who had visited the Oak Leaf Farm and come into contact with goats there.
Three patients who did not visit Oak Leaf Farm but became ill with E. coli after having contact with someone with an E. coli infection who did visit the farm. These people are referred to as secondary cases.
E. coli O157:H7 was identified for the first time at the CDC in 1975, but it was not until seven years later, in 1982, that E. coli O157:H7 was conclusively determined to be a cause of enteric disease. Following outbreaks of foodborne illness that involved several cases of bloody diarrhea, E. coli O157:H7 was firmly associated with hemorrhagic colitis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated in 1999 that 73,000 cases of E. coli O157:H7 occur each year in the United States. Approximately 2,000 people are hospitalized, and 60 people die as a direct result of E. coli O157:H7 infections and complications. The majority of infections are thought to be foodborne-related, although E. coli O157:H7 accounts for less than 1% of all foodborne illness.
E. coli O157:H7 bacteria are believed to mostly live in the intestines of cattle but have also been found in the intestines of chickens, deer, sheep, goats, and pigs. E. coli O157:H7 does not make the animals that carry it ill; the animals are merely the reservoir for the bacteria.
Hemolytic uremic syndrome is a severe, life-threatening complication of an E. coli bacterial infection that was first described in 1955, and is now recognized as the most common cause of acute kidney failure in childhood. E. coli O157:H7 is responsible for over 90% of the cases of HUS that develop in North America. In fact, some researchers now believe that E. coli O157:H7 is the only cause of HUS in children. HUS develops when the toxin from E. coli bacteria, known as Shiga-like toxin (SLT), enters cells lining the large intestine. The Shiga-toxin triggers a complex cascade of changes in the blood. Cellular debris accumulates within the body’s tiny blood vessels and there is a disruption of the inherent clot-breaking mechanisms. The formation of micro-clots in the blood vessel-rich kidneys leads to impaired kidney function and can cause damage to other major organs.
Contact the Marler Clark E. coli Attorneys
If you or a family member became ill with an E. coli infection after consuming contaminated food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, you can contact the Marler Clark E. coli attorneys for a free case evaluation. Marler Clark is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of E. coli outbreaks and other foodborne illnesses. The law firm has represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other foodborne illness infections, and is the only firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.
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