Another E. coli Case Confirmed in Ohio

Earlier this week we reported that the growing number of <"">E. coli cases clustering in Ohio was officially deemed an outbreak and the three original cases from Franklin County have genetic links, proving they originated from the same source.  Now, another case has been genetically linked to the three, bringing the total linked cases to four.

All linked cases have been discovered within Franklin County and are believed to come from the same source.  To date, no cases have been linked to the strain found in a 52-year-old Gahanna woman who died May 27.

In the past two days, the number of cases has grown to 12 and the team of health departments now involved includes the city of Columbus and Delaware, Fairfield, and Franklin counties.  According to Dr. Mysheika LeMaile-Williams, medical director and assistant health commissioner at Columbus Public Health, determining the source of the outbreak is no easy task and Debbie Coleman, assistant city health commissioner said it takes approximately three weeks between the illness and genetic fingerprinting results.

Escherichia coli is a relatively common bacteria found in the human digestive tract and, while normally harmless, some strains—such as those linked to food poisoning—are serious and can cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, and deadly septicemia.  Because many infected with the bacteria experience less severe symptoms, many cases are never reported.  In the US, E. coli is the leading cause of food-borne illness and about 73,000 people are infected and 61 people die from E. coli annually; last year, over 22 million pounds of beef and vegetables were recalled due to E. coli outbreaks.

The problem is difficult to police because the food-surveillance system is outdated, under-funded, and overwhelmed by the emergence of mega-farms, -distribution centers, and -transporters.  Scientists have expressed concern that infections from antibiotic resistant E. coli bacteria are now spreading and several countries are reporting cases.  Worse, emerging data confirms the negative health effects of E. coli can remain for months and years; can have long-term, lasting effects; and can appear months or years after the original illness.

The Columbus Public Health suggests:  Frequent hand washing, especially after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before and after eating or preparing food.  Cook ground beef to at least 160° F, testing the meat by putting a food thermometer in its thickest part; never eat ground beef with pink in the middle and send undercooked burgers back for more cooking and request a new bun and clean plate.  Keep raw meat away from other foods—never put cooked hamburgers/meat on the plate they were on before cooking; wash meat thermometers after each use.  Wash hands, cutting boards, counters, dishes, and utensils with hot soapy water after touching raw meat, spinach, greens, or sprouts.  Only drink pasteurized milk, juice, or cider and only drink water from safe sources—chlorine-treated municipal water, tested wells, or bottled water.  Wash all fruits and vegetables; never swallow lake or pool water while swimming, and always wash hands after touching animals.

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