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Food Poison Journal

Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

A Baker’s Dozen of E. coli Cases in New Hampshire

No announcement of where illnesses are located or what the source of the E. coli infections are as of today.

AP reports the as the investigation of an outbreak of E. coli bacteria associated with ground beef continues in New Hampshire, the Health Department says a 13th person has gotten sick since June.

Investigations started last week to determine the source of the ground beef. The safety of ground beef in the United States is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture, which is assisting the state with the investigation.

The people who became ill ate ground beef at a number of different locations in the state.

Salmonella Strikes Salads

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals and the Department of Public Health are investigating after 20 cases of Salmonella were reported in Iowa County Tuesday.

Officials said Tuesday that early indications show that many of the ill individuals ate potato salad from the Big G Food Store in Marengo.

“Big G’s “Zesty Potato Salad” and “Traditional Potato Salad” have been implicated in several cases of foodborne illness reported in Iowa County. Presumptive test results from the State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa indicate the presence of Salmonella in these products,” the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals said in a news release issued on Monday.

One of the people believed to be infected tells KCRG-TV9 that the salad was widely consumed after a funeral last Thursday. Many of the funeral guests reported becoming ill, the source said.

In an unrelated event, Meijer has announced a recall of various fresh salads and sandwiches because of a potential risk of Salmonella. The “Markets of Meijer Salads and Sandwiches” were sold in Meijer stores from July 20, 2016, to July 25, according to the company’s website. A cooked egg ingredient from Meijer supplier Prime Foods, LLC, tested positive for Salmonella.

No illnesses have been reported.

Will Hawaii find source of Oahu Hepatitis A Outbreak

What can the 74 do to help health officials?  Being your own Jr. Epidemiologist.

baad9453-477d-4dd2-8863-4396a6691157Sitting in my hotel room on the shores of Waikiki in the remnants of tropical storm Darby, has given me time – perhaps too much – to think about this outbreak – especially after meeting with a few of the families.

The Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH) is investigating a cluster of 74 hepatitis A infections on Oahu.  Onset of illness has ranged between 6/12/16 – 7/14/16.  Sick individuals were likely exposed to the fecal human virus through food, drink or personal exposure 2 – 6 weeks prior to onset of symptoms – so the likely exposure period in 5/1/16 – 7/1/16.

HDOH staff are conducting interviews with the cases in an effort to identify the source of infection.  HDOH reports that identifying the source of infection continues to be a challenge because of the long incubation period of the disease and the difficulty patients have in accurately recalling the foods consumed and locations visited during the period when infection could have taken place.

All of the cases are residents of Oahu with the exception of two individuals who now live on the islands of Hawaii and Maui, respectively, but were on Oahu during their exposure period.

On the 74 sickened, 1 was an employee of Taco Bell and 1 was an employee of Baskin-Robbins on Oahu who worked prior to the onset of illness but during the peak exposure period.  This has caused additional community concern that the outbreak may spread to Taco Bell and Baskin-Robbins patrons.

So, what can the 74 do to help health officials find the common link?  Here are some suggestions that I am sure HDOH officials are already using:

  • Be cooperative – hepatitis A illnesses can last 2 – 6 months and victims are certainly not feeling their best, but their cooperation is vital.
  • Thinking about what you ate or drank and where may well not be that productive – trying to recall what you ate or drank several weeks ago is difficult – I can hardly recall what I ate or drank a few days ago – however, try.
  • Focus on where you have been eating and drinking in the 2 – 6 weeks prior to becoming ill – at home or out. Check your calendar, phone records and social media like Facebook and Twitter.
  • Pull your credit and debit card purchases as well as any accounts you have at grocery stores or restaurants.
  • As friends, co-workers or family what they might recall that you did over that same time.
  • Keep in contact with HDOH. Its resources are stretched and it needs your support and assistance.

With the help of the 74 (hopefully, not more), HDOH will solve this mystery and stop the spread of this potentially deadly virus.

Disease Outbreak Control Division
1250 Punchbowl Street, Room 443
Honolulu, HI 96813
Tel: (808) 587-6845
Fax: (808) 586-8347

Disease Investigation Branch
Tel: (808) 586-8362
Toll free: 1-800-360-2575
Fax: (808) 586-4595

Hepatitis A:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Hepatitis A outbreaks. The Hepatitis A lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Hepatitis A and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Hepatitis A lawyers have litigated Hepatitis A cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as green onions, lettuce and restaurant food.  The law firm has brought Hepatitis A lawsuits against such companies as Costco, Subway, McDonald’s, Red Robin, Chipotle, Quiznos and Carl’s Jr.  We proudly represented the family of Donald Rockwell, who died after consuming hepatitis A tainted food and Richard Miller, wo required a liver transplant after eating food at a Chi-Chi’s restaurant.

If you or a family member became ill with a Hepatitis A infection after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Hepatitis A attorneys for a free case evaluation.

E. coli Flour Outbreak – more ill, more strains, more hospitalized

big-map-7-25-16The CDC reports that as of July 25, 2016, 46 people infected with the outbreak strains of STEC O121 (45 people) or STEC O26 (1 person) have been reported from 21 states.  Illnesses started on dates ranging from December 21, 2015 to June 25, 2016. Ill people range in age from 1 year to 95, with a median age of 18. Eighty percent of ill people are female. Thirteen ill people have been hospitalized. One person developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

In July 2016, laboratory testing by General Mills and FDA isolated STEC O26 from a sample of General Mills flour. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) showed that the STEC O26 isolated from the flour sample was closely related genetically to isolates from an ill person. The flour tested was not included in the earlier General Mills recalls.

On July 25, 2016, General Mills expanded its recall to include more production dates. CDC recommends that consumers, restaurants, and retailers do not use, serve, or sell the recalled flours.

Prior Recalls and Test Results:

In June 2016, laboratory testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) isolated STEC O121 from samples of General Mills flour collected from the home of an ill person in Oklahoma. The STEC O121 isolated from the flour sample has the same PFGE pattern, or DNA fingerprint, as the outbreak strain. The flour collected in Oklahoma was not included in the initial General Mills recall

In the same month, FDA identified STEC O121 in an open sample of General Mills flour collected from the homes of ill people in Colorado and Arizona. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) showed that the STEC O121 isolates from the flour samples were closely related genetically to the STEC O121 isolates from ill people. The flour sample that was tested came from lots of flour included in the initial recall announced by General Mills.

On July 1, 2016, General Mills expanded the recall to include some flours sold under the same brand names included in the initial recall: Gold Medal Flour, Gold Medal Wondra Flour, and Signature Kitchens Flour. CDC recommends that consumers, restaurants, and retailers do not use, serve, or sell the recalled flours.

On May 31, 2016, General Mills recalled several sizes and varieties of Gold Medal Flour, Gold Medal Wondra Flour, and Signature Kitchens Flour due to possible E. coli contamination. The recalled flours were produced in the Kansas City facility during a time frame identified by traceback and sold nationwide.