Outbreaks at nursing homes put seniors at severe risk


TROY, MI — Fifteen residents of the Alterra Clare Bridge assisted-living facility were hospitalized after they became ill with what appears to be Norovirus infections on Thursday. While such infections are not usually fatal, one man died early Thursday of apparent cardiac arrest. An autopsy will be performed to determine whether his death was caused by a Norovirus infection.

Norovirus, a common foodborne illness, causes severe abdominal cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea. Symptoms generally last for two to three days. Children and the elderly are particularly susceptible to foodborne illnesses and other diseases because their immune systems are weaker than those of healthy adults. But as has been proven by several Norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships, and most recently in hotels, even healthy adults are susceptible to Norovirus infection.

“Illnesses such as Norovirus and Shigella, the bacteria that was making children ill in Lansing last month, are typically self-limiting illnesses,” said Denis Stearns, an attorney with Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm nationally known for its successful representation of victims of foodborne illness outbreaks. “This means that doctors can do nothing but provide supportive care to patients who present with symptoms of these illnesses.”

“If this outbreak caused a death, it would certainly be a tragedy,” Stearns continued. “Preparing and serving food to a vulnerable, elderly population requires the greatest of care and the highest food safety standards, including the monitoring of employee health. Too many of these outbreaks are linked to the fact that a food worker came to work despite being ill.”

In 2002, Marler Clark represented the family of a woman who was a resident in a nursing home, and was served salmonella-contaminated cantaloupe. Her salmonella infection, and the resulting complications, were determined to be the cause of her death. In 2003, An E. coli O157:H7 outbreak at a San Mateo County, CA retirement center resulted in forty-six probable, and thirteen confirmed E. coli infections among staff and residents. Seven people were hospitalized, and one died. Marler Clark recently settled the cases of two victims of the outbreak, which was linked to E. coli-contaminated spinach.

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BACKGROUND: Marler Clark has extensive experience representing victims of foodborne illnesses. The firm has represented thousands of food poisoning victims since 1993, when William Marler represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million E. coli settlement with Jack in the Box. Since that time, Marler Clark has represented victims of E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, hepatitis A, Shigella, Campylobacter, Norovirus, and Listeria outbreaks across the United States.

See the Marler Clark-sponsored web sites about Norovirus, and about foodborne illness.