Death Reported, as Suspected E. coli Outbreak in Oklahoma Grows

Officials have finally released the name of a man who died from suspected <"">E. coli poisoning this past weekend: 26-year-old Chad Ingle. Ingle was one of dozens who fell ill with some type of food borne illness in Oklahoma last week. Although Ingle was discharged from Tulsa’s St. Francis Hospital last Friday after becoming sick on Wednesday, he returned to the hospital the following morning when his condition worsened; he died soon after. Several others who ate at the same Locust Grove restaurant as Ingle also became ill, yet health officials say they conducted a thorough inspection of the facility and found nothing that would sicken so many. Despite this, it is suspected that all those who were sickened, were contaminated with the E. coli bacterium after eating at the restaurant.

Oklahoma State Health Department spokeswoman Leslea Bennett-Webb confirmed the one death and that dozens are sick after apparently being infected with E. coli. Bennett-Webb also announced that 12 to 20 others were treated at a variety of other hospitals in the neighboring areas in northeastern Oklahoma. At least 11 patients were admitted to St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa with symptoms of food poisoning along with a very severe and bloody form of diarrhea, leading experts to believe that a very virulent strain of E. coli is involved; however, other food borne illnesses are also being reviewed. Officials will be unable to confirm the source of the bacteria and its strain until laboratory test results are received.

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 very 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 annually; last year, over 22 million pounds of beef and vegetables were recalled due to E. coli outbreaks.

Scientists have 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, emerging data confirms 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. 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 was seemingly resolved. 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.

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