Oklahoma E. coli Source Confirmed: Country Cottage Restaurant

Oklahoma state health officials have located the source of the recent <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/e_coli_escherichia_coli">E. Coli outbreak in that state that killed one man, sickened dozens, and placed a number of children on dialysis.  The state investigators have confirmed that the suspected origin of the outbreak—the Country Cottage restaurant in Locust Grove—is at least one source of the infection.  One of the investigator’s also reports that the food was likely contaminated in the restaurant, not prior to delivery.

Most of those who fell ill reported having eaten at the Locust Grove restaurant.  Country Cottage has remained closed voluntarily all week and it remains unclear if the restaurant—which has been in business for 22 years—will be reopening at this point.  It seems that the restaurant’s owners are “distraught.”  A total of 73 people of have either checked into the hospital or have reported symptoms.  Chad Ingle died as a result of the contamination; his funeral occurred yesterday.  Also, medical examiners are investigating another death:  That of an 83-year-old Locust Grove man who reportedly ate at Country Cottage.

Health department officials say the contamination could have occurred when two different kinds of food were placed too close together.  Meanwhile, Country Cottage, which is a buffet-style restaurant, has had 88 health department violations since 2004, which range from improper food storage to improper food temperatures.  Cross contamination violations occurred in 2005 and 2006, according to health department reports.  This type of contamination can take place when, for instance, a meat product is placed near a product such as eggs.

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 E coli strain O157:H7 is generally always the culprit.  In the US, E. coli is the leading cause of food-borne illness, accounting for about 73,000 infections and 61 deaths; 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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