Oklahoma E. coli Outbreak Linked to Well Water

The Associated Press reported over the weekend that bacterial contamination has been found in well water at Oklahoma’s Country Cottage restaurant. The restaurant has been linked to an <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/e_coli_O157_H7">E. coli outbreak that killed one man and sickened many dozens. Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Skylar McElhaney reported that additional tests are needed to determine if the E.coli found in the water includes the same strain implicated in the outbreak. “While we cannot say this is the source of the outbreak, we also cannot rule it out,” McElhaney said.

The outbreak connected to Country Cottage has sickened about 116 people; approximately 50 required hospitalization, health officials said. Chad Ingle, 26, is the young man who died last Sunday, one week after eating at the restaurant. Ingle was discharged from Tulsa’s St. Francis Hospital the prior Friday after becoming sick that Wednesday; he returned to the hospital the following morning when his condition worsened and died soon after. Several children have needed dialysis treatment due to kidney failure. Recent studies have 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.

According to the AP, McElhaney said samples tested were from the restaurant property and there is no evidence that residents’ water is contaminated. Larry Weatherford, a spokesman for the Oklahoma State Department of Health, said officials are not sure test results will be received, but it could be within 72 hours, but more open items are anticipated. “We see the well results as one piece of the puzzle and it’s my understanding that they (the restaurant) were only on well water for two hours of one day,” he said. The exact cause of the contamination remains unknown; however, sewer leaks, runoff from agricultural waste, and improper well maintenance and disinfection are common causes of this type of bacterial contamination.

Some strains of Escherichia coli, 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 strain O157:H7 is generally always the culprit. In the US, E. coli is the leading cause of food-borne illness, with about 73,000 people infected and 61 people dying 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.

We have long been reporting that, 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. It was believed that once we recover from a food-related contamination that we are healed and the illness is gone; however, recent research reveals 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.

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