Another Possible E. coli Outbreak Surfacing in Tulsa

Health officials are working to determine if <"">E. coli is at the root of a possible suspected food poisoning outbreak in Tulsa.  Several people in that area have became sick with possible E. coli symptoms.  Some who fell ill are being treated at Tulsa’s Saint Francis Hospital; a hospital spokesperson confirmed doctors are treating at least eight people from Tulsa, Locust Grove, Bixby, Beggs, and Pryor.  The Oklahoma Health Department says up to two dozen people have been treated and released at other hospitals in northeastern Oklahoma.

Doctors suspect E coli, but the health department has not confirmed if that is the case and officials will be unable to confirm one way or another until the results of lab test are in.  Health officials have also not confirmed if any deaths have resulted from the emerging outbreak and continue to investigate the origin of the outbreak, including a probe of restaurants.

Escherichia coli is a relatively common bacteria found in the human digestive tract and is normally harmless; however, some strains, including those linked to food poisoning, such as E coli O157:H7, are serious and can cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, deadly septicemia, and death.  In food poisoning outbreaks involving E. Coli, the deadly E coli strain O157:H7 is generally always the culprit.

In the US, E. coli is the leading cause of food-borne illness.  About 73,000 people are infected and 61 people die from E. coli each year and, last year alone, over 22 million pounds of beef and vegetables were recalled due to E. coli outbreaks.

In the last two years, a variety of food pathogens have killed several people, sickened thousands, and touched nearly every state in the country as well as Canada.  The problem is difficult to police because the food-surveillance system is outdated, under-funded, and overwhelmed by the emergence of mega-farms, -distribution centers, and -transporters.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 also expressed serious concern that infections from antibiotic resistant E. coli bacteria are spreading into the greater population and several countries also now report cases of antibiotic-resistant E. coli.  Researchers compare the E. coli threat to the worldwide problem of community-acquired MRSA—methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus—an antibiotic-resistant staph developing resistance to the last drug of choice.

In addition to the spread of E. coli and the growing resistance of the infection to traditional medications, it seems that there is emerging data that the negative health effects of E. coli can remain for months and years later.  It was believed that once we recover from a food-related contamination that we are healed and the illness is gone.  Not so.  According to recent research, these illnesses can have long-term, lasting effects that can either linger for months or years or can show up months or years after the original illness.  As part of their studies, researchers found that some children who suffered severe cases of E. coli developed health problems later in life, such as kidney problems, high blood pressure, and kidney failure; the health problems appeared as late as 10 to 20 years later.  The research also found people who suffered salmonella or shigella can find themselves suffering with arthritis later in life and, for those who exhibited mild campylobacter, a type of paralysis can strike following the initial complaints.

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