The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) confirmed this week that its investigation of an E. coli outbreak in Northwest Arkansas has concluded without a source being identified. Results from food sample tests for E. coli bacteria and surveys of sick individuals did not pinpoint a source of the August outbreak.
ADH previously confirmed it has no reason to believe the outbreak is connected to the university’s public dining facilities.
More than 3,200 people were surveyed as a part of the investigation, which identified 37 probable cases and five confirmed cases. ADH previously confirmed that four of the confirmed cases required hospitalization but were later discharged. No new E. coli cases connected to this outbreak have been reported in Northwest Arkansas since Aug. 25.
What is E. coli
Escherichia coli (E. coli) are members of a large group of bacterial germs that inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and other warm-blooded animals. Most strains—or serotypes—of E. coli do not cause disease in humans, but the toxic serotypes can cause serious illness and even death. The most common toxic strain is O157:H7, but there are others that can cause illness.
How do you get E. coli
E. coli is often contracted by consuming food or beverage that has been contaminated by animal (especially cattle) manure. Most of the foodborne E. coli outbreaks has been traced to contaminated ground beef; however leafy vegetables that have been contaminated in fields or during processing have been increasingly identified as the source of outbreaks, as have unpasteurized (raw) milk and cheese, unpasteurized apple juice and cider, alfalfa and radish sprouts, orange juice, and even water. There have also been outbreaks associated with petting zoos and agricultural fairs.
What to look for
The first symptom of E. coli infection is the onset of abdominal pain and severe cramps, followed within 24 hours by diarrhea, often bloody. This is hemorrhagic colitis, and it typically occurs within 2 to 5 days of ingestion of E. coli; however, the incubation period—the time between the ingestion of E. coli bacteria and the onset of illness—may be as broad as 1 to 10 days.
What to do
Seek medical attention. Ask your healthcare provider for a stool sample to confirm or rule out E. coli infection. There is no ‘cure’ for E. coli infection, but prompt medical attention can alleviate pain and reduce the chance of serious complications like HUS (Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome).
Be a smart consumer and avoid dangerous foods. When cooking with meat, especially ground beef, thoroughly clean all surfaces the raw meat touched (counters, cutting boards, sinks, hands, utensils, faucets, plates). Cook meats to safe temperatures – use a digital thermometer to check. Wash leafy greens thoroughly. Keep receipts for all food purchases. Wash hands often.
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.