The romaine lettuce outbreak has caused at least two E. coli O145-induced cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in Wappinger Falls, New York. A bag of Freshway Foods romaine lettuce intended for consumption in the Wappinger School District also tested positive for the outbreak strain of E. coli O145, leading to a national recall. Two students from the district were hospitalized at Westchester Medical Center last month with HUS. Two others were hospitalized. The students go to Roy C. Ketcham High School, John Jay High School Wappingers Junior High School and Van Wyck Middle School.
Unfortunately, this is not New York’s first rodeo with HUS. In 2006, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. and a meat supplier paid $11 million to the family of a New York girl who became ill with E. coli O157:H7 after eating contaminated hamburgers. The girl’s illness developed into HUS, ultimately causing life-altering injuries. In the same outbreak, another young boy developed HUS.
In the spinach outbreak in 2006–yet another sad chapter in a tired story about E. coli outbreaks and leafy greens–a number of New Yorkers were sickened severely, including at least two young girls who developed HUS. One was hospitalized for two weeks, incurring almost $40,000 in medical bills, and now has an estimated 40% chance of developing end stage renal disease (kidney failure) in her lifetime as a result of her illness.
The other New York HUS victim from the spinach outbreak was already in advanced kidney failure upon admission to the hospital. For the next 28 days, her kidneys were able to produce only small amounts of urine, and she was on hemodialysis for six straight weeks. She also endured multiple “thunderclap” headaches; blood pressures as high as 180/125; hypertensive encephalopathy; full clonic seizures, accompanied by disorientation and blindness; intracranial hemorrhage; and immeasurable physical and psychological suffering during her month-long hospitalization.