Rita Giordano reports: The Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced an outbreak of E. coli infections that have sickened 14 people so far.
In a statement released Thursday, city health officials said their ongoing investigation “has identified a few shared restaurant exposures.” They have not named specific restaurants.
All 14 affected people, ranging in age from 7 to 90 years old, “presented with signs of acute gastroenteritis with bloody and non-bloody diarrhea,” according to the statement.
The cases have been reported since Aug. 30.
The health department said the illnesses were due to Shiga-toxin E. coli, one of five E. coli strains. Symptoms usually start with non-bloody diarrhea, which can progress to bloody diarrhea after two to three days. Severe abdominal pain and fever may also occur.
Exposure to the bacteria often occurs through contact with food or water contaminated by human or animal stool or through contact with an infected person. Outbreaks have been associated with consuming undercooked beef, unpasteurized milk, or raw leafy vegetables, as well as exposure at petting zoos.
A significant possible complication of this strain of E. coli exposure is hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) — a condition that affects the blood vessels in the kidneys — which can cause hemolytic anemia, low platelets and acute renal dysfunction. HUS usually develops seven to 14 days after diarrhea begins and can result in kidney failure, seizures, coma or death. About 6% of the people infected by the E. coli strain will develop HUS, according to the health department. Children ages 1 to 4 are at highest risk for HUS.