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Food Poison Journal Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Questions and Answers: Raw Milk E. coli Outbreaks in Missouri and Oregon

The Boone County (Missouri) Health Department and Oregon State Department of Health have announced E. coli outbreaks that has sickened nearly two dozen people linked to the consumption of raw (unpasteurized) milk.

In the wake of these outbreaks, the food safety experts and E. coli attorneys at Marler Clark are sharing the answers to frequently asked questions to those who may have been exposed in the outbreak.

Missouri and Oregon Raw Milk E. coli Outbreak: FAQs

Q: I drank raw milk and believe I may have an E. coli infection. How do I know whether it’s E. coli or not? What are the symptoms of E. coli?

A: If you believe you may have an E. coli infection, the E. coli attorneys at Marler Clark recommend that you seek medical attention. E. coli infections are characterized by acute gastroenteritis.E. coli infection symptoms include abdominal pain and severe stomach cramps, followed within 24 hours by diarrhea. The diarrhea caused by E. coli is often bloody. The incubation period, or the time from ingestion of E. coli bacteria until the symptoms start, is generally 2-4 days.

Hemolytic uremic syndrome is a severe and sometimes deadly complication of E. coli infection that can result in acute kidney failure. A small percentage of E. coli outbreak victims – mostly young children and elderly people – suffer this complication. At least two young children have been hospitalized with HUS since this Missouri raw milk E. coli outbreak began.

Q: What should I do if I think I’m part of the raw milk E. coli outbreak?

A: The Marler Clark E. coli attorneys recommend contacting your local health department to report your illness. Again, if you believe you need medical assistance for your E. coli infection, contact your healthcare provide and submit a stool sample for testing. An E. coli diagnosis involves culturing E. coli bacteria from an ill individual’s stool.

Q: How will I know if I’m part of the Missouri or Oregon raw milk E. coli outbreak?

A: E. coli bacteria can be detected in stool. A fecal sample provided to a healthcare provider or health department is placed in nutrient broth or on agar and incubated for 2-3 days. After that time, a trained microbiologist can identify E. coli bacteria and confirm its identity by looking at biochemical reactions.

Treatment with antibiotics before collecting a specimen for testing can affect bacterial growth in culture, and lead to a negative test result even when E. coli causes the infection. If E. coli is isolated from an ill person’s stool, a bacterial isolate can be compared to isolates from other ill individuals – and possibly from raw milk samples. Bacterial isolates that have matching “DNA Fingerprints” indicate a potential common source of E. coli infection. Epidemiologists work to determine whether two people with positive bacterial isolates with indistinguishable DNA fingerprints are part of a common outbreak – in this case, one tied to E. coli-contaminated raw milk.

Q: I drank raw milk and got E. coli. I’m thinking about hiring a law firm to represent me, but am concerned about the cost of legal representation for my E. coli case. What are the costs of hiring a lawyer for an E. coli case? How do I find the most experienced E. coli attorney?

A: The lawyers at Marler Clark have been representing E. coli victims since 1993 and have recovered over $600,000,000 for clients. The Marler Clark E. coli attorneys provide free case evaluations for all potential raw milk E. coli outbreak victims, and victims of other foodborne illness outbreaks. Our E. coli lawyers do not charge an hourly fee. Our firm works on behalf of clients and only collects fee on a contingent basis. That means we collect our fees for E. coli cases as a percentage of the recovery obtained on our clients’ behalf after the case has been resolved. You can contact Marler Clark for a free E. coli case evaluation and further explanation of fees through our free case evaluation form or by calling us toll-free at (866) 770-2032.