Of those nine cases associated with Worthy Burger, six are confirmed and three are probable, according to state health officials.
For Art Rafus, who teaches at Hartford Middle School, E. coli has turned into a parent’s worst nightmare.
Rafus said his 2-year-old son, Wyatt, started having diarrhea on Saturday, Sept. 19. Worried about the color of the diarrhea, they took Wyatt to DHMC on Tuesday, where he was diagnosed with strep throat.
They tried to treat him with antibiotics, but Wyatt’s condition deteriorated. He began vomiting, and couldn’t keep medicine down.
On Friday, when they brought him back to the doctor, they found that Wyatt was suffering from a life-threatening failure of the kidneys — hemolytic uremic syndrome — that is associated with E. coli.
On Saturday, a week after the first symptoms appeared, Rafus said doctors operated on Wyatt to prepare him for dialysis, which they started on Sunday to flush toxins from his body.
“It was a real struggle for him, to be on dialysis,” Rafus said. “A real fight.”
But the worst was yet to come. On Tuesday, Wyatt’s struggles to breathe led to him being placed on a ventilator. During the process, his heart stopped, twice.
On Wednesday, Rafus said Wyatt was sedated, and stable, but still in danger.
“They use the term ‘most,’ ” he said. “Most people fully recover.”
When Sarah Bulkely, 31, of Proctorsville, was admitted to Mt. Ascutney Hospital with severe stomach pain on Sept. 3, she thought she had come down with a bad sinus infection or stomach flu.
“I was just at that point of, “Please fix me,’ ” she said. “I’m not one that just runs to the hospital.”
While at the hospital, her white blood cell count rocketed, her lungs filled with fluid, and she lost what she said was a “frightening” amount of weight.
She was eventually diagnosed with an E. coli-related infection. After 10 days in the hospital, she was discharged, but said she still hasn’t fully recovered.
On Friday, Sept. 25, Elizabeth Doherty, a 22-year-old Vermont Law School student, said she began feeling a little sick. By Sunday, she said, she was having near-constant diarrhea, nausea, dizziness and severe stomach pain.
On Monday, her mother, Eileen Doherty, drove up from Massachusetts to take her to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
“She was hunched over, like curled up on the couch, crying, pale, sweaty,” she said. “She looked horrible.”
Elizabeth Doherty said she was terrified because she didn’t know what was wrong with her.
“I was in tears on Monday,” she said. “I never experienced so much pain.”
By Tuesday, Doherty had been diagnosed with E. coli gastroenteritis. She said she was treated overnight, and is still recovering at home.
Marler Clark gets to weigh in:
Bill Marler, a partner in the Food Safety Law Firm of Seattle, said he’s been specializing in contaminated beef lawsuits since 1993, when the restaurant chain Jack in the Box sickened hundreds by feeding them hamburgers tainted with E. coli.
Marler said large processors, like Cargill, have implemented safety inspection programs that generally work to protect the public.
“The number of cases linked to hamburger has dropped like a stone since 2003,” he said.
But, he said, while it’s true that meat from small, local farms such as ones that supply Worthy Burger are less likely to be contaminated, that doesn’t mean consumers should operate under a false sense of security.
“They think somehow that grass-fed local organic beef doesn’t have E. coli, so they think they can undercook it and get away with it. Most of the time, they probably can, because the outbreaks are so small people don’t notice them. But the reality is that the only way to kill pathogens is to cook to 155 and use a thermometer.”
Marler said that, in his experience, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is often reluctant to issue recalls.
“FSIS tries to figure out the least-disruptive-to-industry way,” he said.
He said that, if lab tests have shown beef to be contaminated, it should be recalled, because explanations that involve culprits other than the source of the meat are less likely to pan out.
“Here there should be no excuse that there should be some kind of recall, even if it’s recalling it just from that restaurant,” said Marler.
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 $600 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.