According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, Zeppoles produced by DeFusco’s Bakery that were distributed widely at restaurants, bistros, and senior centers throughout the state are to blame for a Salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 33 people and hospitalized 17. While the contaminated Italian pastries have the potential to be harmful to all, Salmonella lawyer Bill Marler warns that the elderly may be the most susceptible to dangerous infection.

“Salmonella can be absolutely devastating for an elderly person”

“We typically see that children and the elderly suffer the most serious consequences in a Salmonella outbreak.” Said Marler, “However, there are many contributing factors that make an older person much more likely to contract a foodborne illness such as Salmonella.”

Death rates for infectious diarrheal disease alone are five times higher in people over 74 years of age than in the next highest group, children under four years of age, and fifteen times higher than the rates seen in younger adults. The elderly’s heightened risks, both of infection and mortality due to enteric infectious disease, are attributable to several factors: (1) the aging of the gastrointestinal tract (reduced gastric acidity/reduced gastric mobility); (2) a higher prevalence of underlying medical disorders (co-morbidity factors); and (3) malnutrition and a decline in the immune response that leaves the host less able to defend itself against infectious agents.

“Salmonella can be absolutely devastating for an elderly person,” said Marler. “It is vitally important for this age group to understand the effects, causes, symptoms, and prevention techniques associated with a Salmonella infection.”

Marler’s law firm Marler Clark, maintains numerous sites and blogs dedicated to educating and engaging consumers on the realities of foodborne illness and the importance of food safety. The site hosts general in-depth information about Salmonella including causes and symptoms as well as updated information about current outbreaks. Other sites cover complications associated with Salmonella such as Reactive Arthritis or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. He also offers downloadable materials such as The family guide to Salmonella designed to help people avoid an infection but also give steps to take if one suspects a Salmonella illness.