Oklahoma Outbreak Claims One Life, Sickens Many

A food borne illness outbreak in northeastern Oklahoma has sickened as many as 30 and taken one life. Although lab results are not in, signs point to the highly toxic E. coli O157:H7 bacteria as the culprit. Many of the ill have eaten at the same restaurants, and leads are being followed to determine the source. In the last two years, more than 40 million pounds of meat have been recalled due to contamination with E. coli O157:H7, and outbreaks have also been traced to leafy greens. . [Note - as of 8/27, there are 40 illnesses and 17 hospitalizations.]

“This has been a terrible year for E. coli outbreaks,” said food safety advocate and attorney William Marler. “Boy Scouts at camp were sickened by contaminated hamburger, and families who ate at a barbeque restaurant have spent months in ICU. We expect our food to be free of deadly pathogens—that’s the job of the regulations put into place by government.”

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, as have unpasteurized milk and cheese, unpasteurized apple juice and cider, alfalfa and radish sprouts, orange juice, and even water. There have also been outbreaks associated with petting zoos and agricultural fairs.

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.”