E. coli O157:H7 Infection

E. coli O157:H7 Infection: An Extremely Dangerous Foodborne Illness that Can Lead to Death

Escherichia coli (or E. coli) is a common source of food poisoning. The most common strain of the E. Coli bacteria responsible for food contamination is E Coli O157:H7. This strain of E. coli produces a Shiga toxin, and is the one source responsible for the most massive food recalls we all hear about in the media.  E. coli O157:H7 causes an estimated 73,000 cases of infection each year.

Most infections with E. coli O157:H7 come from improperly handled or undercooked meat and dairy products, although an increasing number of cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection are being traced to ingestion of leafy greens, such as spinach, as well.

Among the most common symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 poisoning include hemorrhagic colitis, which involves abdominal pain and cramps, severe diarrhea and sometimes vomiting.  The diarrhea starts watery and usually becomes bloody within 24 hours. Sometimes, symptoms can include headaches and fever.

In most cases involving healthy adults, the symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 go away within a few days to a couple of weeks.  However, more severe cases often develop, resulting in hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which often leads to kidney failure and could result in death. Small children, the elderly and those with compromised immune system have an increased risk of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) due to consuming food contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

It is not uncommon for E. coli O157:H7 symptoms to not begin until several days after the contaminated food is consumed.  Once symptoms appear and persist for more than a few hours, immediate medical attention should be sought. In the early stages of e. coli illness, treatment is usually limited to making sure the patient receives proper hydration and nutrition. There is no specific treatment for E. coli O157:H7, since antibiotics have no effect on the bacteria. In fact, some experts believe the use of antibiotics may lead to more serious complications from contamination with E. coli O157:H7.

If you suspect you or someone you love has been infected with, or died from, E. coli O157:H7, and that the infection was caused by contaminated food, you may be entitled to compensation for your illness.

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