The Ottawa County Department of Public Health is alerting the public to increasing cases of shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) infections in the community. The Department is currently monitoring 9 cases of STEC, which is significantly higher than the typical number of cases reported at this time of the year. The Department is working with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to investigate possible links between the cases. Four of the 9 cases have been hospitalized for their symptoms.
STEC is a pathogenic form of Escherichia coli (E. coli) that is often associated with foodborne outbreaks. E. coli bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most types of E. coli are harmless and are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract. However, some types of E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness. The types of E. coli that cause illness can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.
Symptoms of STEC can vary from person to person, but usually include the following:
· Diarrhea, which is often bloody
· Severe stomach cramps
· Low-grade fever
Symptoms of STEC infection typically appear three to four days after eating or drinking something that contains the bacteria. Most people with mild STEC infection begin to improve within five to seven days after infection, but some individuals, including young children and the elderly, may experience severe or even life-threatening symptoms.
Contact your health care provider right away if you have:
· Bloody diarrhea
· Diarrhea that lasts more than three days
· A fever higher than 102˚F
· So much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down and you pass very little urine
· Practice good handwashing often, especially:
· After using the bathroom or changing diapers
· Before or after preparing food and before eating
· After contact with animals at petting zoos, fairs or even in your own backyard.
· If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. These alcohol-based products can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but they are not a substitute for washing with soap and running water.
· Wash fruits and vegetables well under running water, unless the package says the contents have already been washed.
· Cook meats thoroughly:
· Always cook food thoroughly and use a food thermometer to check that the meat has reached a safe internal temperature. You cannot tell whether meat is safely cooked by looking at its color.
· Don’t cause cross-contamination in food preparation areas. Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils with hot, soapy water after they touch raw meat. If possible, use separate cutting boards for raw meat.
· Avoid raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices (such as fresh apple cider).
· Don’t swallow water when swimming and when playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and backyard “kiddie” pools.
· Know if you are at higher risk of “food poisoning”. People with higher chances for foodborne illness are pregnant women, newborns, children, older adults, and those with weak immune systems, such as people with cancer, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS.
· Stay home if you are sick. Because STEC can be so contagious, this is especially important for people who work at or attend school or childcare, and for those who work in food handling.
E. coli: Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of E. coli outbreaks and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The E. coli lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other foodborne illness infections and have recovered over $800 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our E. coli lawyers have litigated E. coli and HUS cases stemming from outbreaks traced to ground beef, raw milk, lettuce, spinach, sprouts, and other food products. The law firm has brought E. coli lawsuits against such companies as Jack in the Box, Dole, ConAgra, Cargill, and Jimmy John’s. We have proudly represented such victims as Brianne Kiner, Stephanie Smith and Linda Rivera.
If you or a family member became ill with an E. coli infection or HUS after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark E. coli attorneys for a free case evaluation.