Our food poisoning lawyers are investigating potential lawsuits for people who were diagnosed with a confirmable E. coli infection you believe was caused by contaminated food or beverage.
What is an E. Coli Infection?
Escherichia coli, better known simply as E. coli, is a type of bacteria that causes severe cramps and gastrointestinal (GI) illness.
There are a number of different forms of E. coli bacteria, most of which are relatively harmless to humans. However, certain strains can cause bloody diarrhea, anemia, kidney failure, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and even death. E. coli infection is more common during the summer months and in the Northern United States.
What is E. Coli 0157:H7?
E. coli O157:H7 is one of the hundreds of strains of Escherichia coli, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Although most strains are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals, O157:H7 produces a powerful toxin and can cause severe illness. Approximately 2 – 7% of E. coli O157 infections lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome, the agency said.
What is Shiga Toxin-Producing (STEC) E. Coli?
Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), which may also be referred to as Verocytotoxin-producing E. coli (VTEC) or enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), is the pathotype of E. coli that is most often associated with food poisoning outbreaks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most cases of infection occur by eating contaminated food, particularly raw or undercooked meat. Infections can also develop from eating any product that has been contaminated with STEC, including lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, salami, and raw (unpasteurized) milk, juice, or cider. Symptoms of STEC infections can vary, but most often include severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, and vomiting.
Symptoms of E. Coli
Symptoms of E. coli infection typically begin 3 to 4 days after exposure to the offending pathogen, though you may become ill slightly sooner or later. Signs and symptoms include:
- Diarrhea (may be watery and/or bloody)
- Abdominal cramping, pain, or tenderness
If you have a severe E. coli illness tied to the bacterium you might have the following complications:
- Bloody diarrhea
Sometimes, if a patient suffers a severe complication, they may end up in the hospital.
Source: Mayo Clinic
How is E. Coli Contacted?
Most E. coli infections are spread from person to person by fecal contamination of water and/or food, especially in raw meat, raw milk, and raw vegetables. Many outbreaks of diarrheal illness are caused by this behavior. Moreover, person-to-person contact easily spreads the organism.
How is E. Coli Diagnosed?
To properly diagnose an E. coli infection, the patient's doctor sends a stool sample to a laboratory to test for the presence of E. coli bacteria. The bacteria are then cultured to confirm the diagnosis and identify specific toxins, such as those produced by E. coli O157:H7.
E. Coli Sources
Some common sources of E. coli bacteria include:
- Contaminated food, especially undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized (raw) milk and juice, soft cheeses made from raw milk, and raw fruits and vegetables (such as lettuce, other leafy greens, and sprouts).
- Contaminated water, including drinking untreated water and swimming in contaminated water.
- Animals and their environment, particularly cows, sheep, and goats.
- Feces of infected people.
How is E. Coli Treated?
For most E. coli infections, what a person doesn’t do to treat symptoms is as important as what the person does do, according to Everyday Health. The article recommends avoiding E. coli treatment with antibiotics and anti-diarrheal medications, as they can actually increase your risk of developing hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) compared to a placebo, according to several peer-reviewed studies. What you can do to effectively treat E. coli, is:
- Get plenty of rest
- Stay hydrated
- Take small sips (can help prevent vomiting)
- Avoid foods that worsen symptoms (apple and pear juices, caffeine, alcohol, spicy food, dairy, fatty foods, and high-fiber foods)
- Gradually add bland food into your diet
Most E. coli infections are asymptomatic, or mild and self-limited, and most people endure the illness without seeking treatment from a doctor. In clinically apparent cases, most patients respond to supportive therapy, with recovery coming within 2 to 5 days, according to Epocrates. The majority of deaths in the developing world are due to volume depletion and/or dehydration.
E. Coli Statistics
An estimated 265,000 E. coli infections occur each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. E. coli STEC 0157 causes about 36% of these infections, and non-0157 STEC causes the rest.
What To Do If You Get E. Coli
Drink plenty of fluids and get rest. If you cannot drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration, or if your symptoms are severe (bloody diarrhea or severe stomach pain), call your doctor immediately.
Timeline for Reporting Cases of E. Coli 0157 Infection
A series of events occurs between the time a person develops an E. coli infection and the time health officials can determine that the illness is part of an outbreak. This means there will likely be a delay between when the person gets sick and confirmation that he or she is part of an outbreak. The timeline is as follows:
- Time to illness: The time from when a person is exposed to E. coli O157 from contaminated food, water, or an infected animal or person to the beginning of symptoms. For E. coli O157, this is typically 1-3 days.
- Time to contact with a healthcare provider: The time from the first symptom until the person seeks medical care. This is typically 1-5 days.
- Time to diagnosis: The time from when a person gives a stool sample to when E. coli O157 is obtained from it in a laboratory (typically 1-3 days). The diagnosis of E. coli infection may be reported to the local health department at this time.
- E. coli isolate shipping time: The time required to ship the E. coli O157 bacteria from the laboratory to the state public health authorities that will perform “DNA fingerprinting” (typically 0-7 days).
- Time to serotyping and DNA fingerprinting: The time required for the state public health authorities to perform “DNA fingerprinting” on the E. coli O157 isolate and compare it with the pattern of the outbreak strain. Ideally, this can be accomplished in 1 day; however, the process may take 2-4 days.
Recent E. Coli Outbreaks and Recalls
- Unknown Food Source – E. coli O157:H72020 - 7-state E. coli outbreak linked to 22 illnesses, 11 hospitalizations, and 1 death. Source of outbreak unknown.
- Unknown Source 3 – E. coli O157:H7 - 18 people from 9 states were infected with an outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7. Illnesses started on dates ranging from Sept. 2, 2020, to Nov. 6, 2020. Six people were hospitalized, and no deaths were reported. Laboratory testing identified the outbreak strain in a sample of Tanimura & Antle romaine lettuce, but investigators were not able to determine if people got sick from eating the contaminated romaine lettuce. On Nov. 6, 2020, Tanimura & Antle recalled its packaged single-head romaine lettuce.
- Leafy Greens – E. coli O157:H7 - 40 people from 19 states were infected with an outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7. Illnesses started on dates ranging from August 10, 2020, to October 31, 2020. Twenty people were hospitalized, and 4 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). No deaths were reported.
- Unknown Source 1 – E. coli O157:H7 - 32 people from 12 states infected with an outbreak strain of E. coli 0157:H7. Illnesses started on dates ranging from June 6, 2020, to October 25, 2020. Fifteen people were hospitalized and 1 person developed hemolytic uremic syndrome. One death was reported in Michigan.
- Clover Sprouts – E. coli O103 - 51 people from 10 states were infected with an outbreak strain of E. coli 0103. Three people were hospitalized and no deaths were reported. On March 16, 2020, Chicago Indoor Garden recalled all products containing red clover sprouts after they were determined to be the source of the outbreak.
- Fresh Express Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kits – E. coli O157:H7 - CDC, public health and regulatory officials in several states and Canada investigated a multi-state outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to Fresh Express Sunflower Crisp chopped salad kits. The contaminated salad kits had best-before dates up to and including Dec. 7, 2019.
- Romaine Lettuce – E. coli O157:H7 - 167 people from 27 states were infected with an outbreak strain of E. coli 0157: H7. A total of 85 hospitalizations were reported, including 15 people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome. Traceback evidence indicated that romaine lettuce from the Salinas Valley in California was contaminated with the E. coli bacteria that made people sick.
- Northfork Bison – E. coli O103 and O121 - 33 people from 8 states were infected with an outbreak strain of STEC and STEC 0121. A total of 18 people were hospitalized. Ground bison produced by Northfork Bison Distributions, Inc., was determined to be the likely source of the outbreak.
E. Coli Prevention Tips
Practicing safe food behaviors can decrease your chances of developing an E. coli infection. These include:
- Washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly
- Avoiding cross-contamination by using clean utensils, pans, and serving platters
- Keeping raw meats away from other foods and away from other clean items
- Not defrosting meat on the counter
- Always defrosting meat in the refrigerator or microwave
- Refrigerating leftovers immediately
- Drinking only pasteurized milk products (avoiding raw milk)
- Not preparing food if you have diarrhea
Typical Defendants in E. Coli Lawsuits
Anyone involved in the chain of distribution of a contaminated food product can be liable for any damages in an E. coli lawsuit. This includes the processing company or manufacturer, the supplier or distributor, and the retailer (i.e. restaurant or grocery store).
Legal Rights of E. Coli Infection Victims
If you were the victim of an E. coli infection, you have the right to seek compensation from the liable party(ies) for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, as well as current and future lost wages. Consult with the E. coli attorneys at Schmidt & Clark, LLP, today and get started on your claim.
Do I Need an E. Coli Lawyer? Free E. Coli Poisoning Lawsuit Review.
The Food Poisoning Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in E. coli lawsuits. Our law firm is handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new food poisoning cases in all 50 states.
If you or a loved one has experienced symptoms of E. coli illness, please contact our law firm immediately for a free consultation. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing an E. coli food poisoning lawsuit and our attorneys can help.
Call the food poisoning lawyers with Schmidt & Clark, LLP by dialing (866) 588-0600 or fill out the contact form below to get your free case review.