Oklahoma Food Poisoning Outbreak Growing, Cause Unconfirmed

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has just confirmed that the number of people hospitalized as part of that state’s growing “severe illness outbreak” has now reached 38; dozens more have reported being sick.  Yesterday we reported that one man—26-year-old Chad Ingle—died as a result of the outbreak, which has yet to be identified.  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.

OSDH officials continue to investigate the source of the outbreak and if it is related to <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/e_coli_escherichia_coli">E. coli bacteria.  OSDH did confirm that many of those who fell ill ate at the Country Cottage restaurant in Locust Grove.  Despite this, OSDH maintains that it is still to soon to confirm the source.  Meanwhile, Country Cottage passed a weekend inspection, according to health officials.  The restaurant voluntarily closed yesterday.  The ill come include residents from the Bixby, Broken Arrow, Locust Grove, McAlester, Peggs, Pryor, Sand Springs, and Tulsa areas in Oklahoma.

Because so many patients are reporting symptoms of food poisoning along with a very severe and bloody form of diarrhea, experts believe that a very virulent, sometimes deadly, strain of E. coli is to blame; 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.  It is unclear when these results are expected.

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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