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Kappa woman sues McDonald's over hepatitis A outbreak

By Deirdre Cox Baker and Dustin Lemmon

The Quad-City Times

Thursday, August 13, 2009

KAPPA - Karie Fiegel of Kappa and her family traveled to the Quad Cities in June, and the only place they ate, besides at her mother's home, was at the McDonald's restaurant in Milan.

A few weeks later, Fiegel, 33, suspected the fare at the fast-food restaurant might have been the reason she had become extremely sick.

"I knew something was wrong, especially when my daughter also got sick, but I was completely shocked to learn it was hepatitis A," she said Thursday. "I'd never heard of hepatitis being a food-borne disease."

Attorneys for Fiegel and her daughter filed a lawsuit Thursday in Rock Island County Circuit Court against the McDonald's and its owner, Kevin Murphy. It is the third suit stemming from this summer's hepatitis A outbreak that has sickened a confirmed total of 31 people to date and prompted the inoculation of more than 5,000 people.

The suit states that Fiegel, and her daughter, Cayla Matthews, 14, both ate chicken June 8 at the McDonald's and subsequently were diagnosed with hepatitis A.

Marler Clark, a Seattle-based law firm that specializes in food-borne illness cases, is handling all three lawsuits.

"Given the incubation period for the disease (14 to 28 days), it's possible that the outbreak is not over," said the Feigels' attorney, William Marler.

Murphy and the McDonald's corporation last publicly commented on the outbreak July 22 by issuing a prepared statement. At that time, Murphy said no one who was sick knowingly worked in the restaurant, but public health officials have since said two employees were diagnosed with hepatitis A.

The restaurant was ordered to close July 15 to 17 for a deep cleaning.

Matthews got sick July 6 and experienced vomiting, fever, aches and fatigue. She was ill for two weeks, her mother said.

Fiegel fell ill the next day with symptoms that included nausea, vomiting, fever, aches, fatigue and jaundice. Her high liver enzyme level was "off the doctor's charts," and she was hospitalized July 14 to 16, she said.

She went to a hospital emergency room last week after suffering a relapse, Fiegel said. She will see a liver specialist at the end of August because she has continuing pain.

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