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.

Doctors and health providers are being asked to test for Shiga-toxin and E. coli in all patients presenting with acute gastroenteritis and notify the health department of confirmed cases. People with suspected infection from this E. coli strain should not take antibiotics; they may increase the risk of HUS.

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 $650 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.

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