The Democrat and Chronicle reports that Livingston County, New York, is the site of a cluster of E. coli illnesses that occurred in the area over a two week span this month.  Of the 7 illnesses, four people were hospitalized.  Two have since been discharged, and it is feared that the other two remain hospitalized, possibly due to complications related to hemolytic uremic syndrome, HUS.  

According to Joan Ellison, from Livingston County public health, “We are gathering information and looking at all possibilities of the source. We have nothing concrete to say it’s ‘this’ or ‘that.’”  Stool samples from infected individuals are being studied currently at the State Department of Health in Albany. 

According to the Democrat and Chronicle, “Ellison said that symptoms of the first case were reported Aug. 6 and signs of the most recent were reported Saturday.”

New York is far from an untested battlefield for E. coli lawsuits.  We have represented people in the state in many outbreaks spanning many years.  Here are just a few:

  • Rocky Mountain Natural Meats Bison 2010:  Tenderized and ground bison meat products were recalled after a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 cases was identified in Colorado and New York state. The meat was produced by the Rocky Mountain Natural Meats Company, located in Henderson, Colorado. The meat was produced in late May and sold to grocery stores nationwide and to food service distributors in Utah and Azizona.
  • Fairbank Farms Ground Beef 2009:  A cluster of illnesses with matching strains of E.coli O157:H7 was investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and state health departments, Cluster ID #0910MAEXH-1. On October 31, a recall of over 500,000 pounds of beef products from Fairbanks Farms was issued because the product was contaminated with E.coli O157:H7. At least some of the ill had consumed the beef prior to their illness onset. Two samples of ground beef recovered from a patients’ homes yielded a strain of E.coli O157:H7 that matched the outbreak strain. Most of the illnesses occurred in September and October. Fairbank Farms had recalled its ground beef previously in 2007 and 2008, one of these instances was also for E.coli contamination. This outbreak occurred concurrently with an E.coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with South Shore Meats, also affecting persons in the Northeastern United States. The last known illness associated with this outbreak began November 6.
  • JBS Swift Company Ground Beef 2009:  A multistate outbreak (Cluster ID # 0906WIEXH-1)was discovered involving ground beef produced by the JBS Swift Company. Most ill persons had consumed ground beef; many reported that it was undercooked. Samples from unopened packages of ground beef recovered from a patient’s home were tested by the Michigan Public Health Laboratory. These yielded E. coli O157:H7 that matched the “DNA fingerprint” of the outbreak strain. Twenty three persons had been infected with the strain that matched by standard DNA testing. The beef was sold in the United States and Mexico. Mexican health officials banned further importation of the meat.
  • Nestle Raw Refrigerated Prepackaged Cookie Dough 2009:  Eighty ill persons infected with a single strain of E. coli O157:H7 were identified in at least 31 states. At least 70 of these illnesses were confirmed by an advanced DNA test as being the same strain of E.coli O157: H7. An epidemiological study indicated a strong association between eating raw, prepackaged, cookie dough and infection; Nestle Toll House brand cookie dough was mentioned by most ill persons who had reported eating cookie dough. On June 29, 2009, the Food and Drug Administration announced that they had found E.coli O157:H7 in a package of cookie dough that had been collected from a Nestle plant on June 25. The strain identified from the package was different from the outbreak strain. E.coli O157:H7 infection had not been previously associated with eating raw cookie dough. The strain of E.coli O157:H7 associated with this outbreak had been associated with earlier outbreaks going back to February, 2005. Although the investigation found no conclusive evidence that contaminated flour was the outbreak source, contaminated flour remained the prime suspect in this outbreak. A single, large purchase of contaminated flour could have been used to manufacture multiple lots and varieties of dough over time as was consistent with the variety of UBD codes on product packages from ill consumers.