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Boy Scout Official Confirms Ground Beef Positive for E. coli

Aug 5, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Alan Lambert, Scout Executive for the National Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America has reported that beef at the Goshen Boy Scouts camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia has tested positive for E. coli and is the culprit in the recent E. coli outbreak that sickened at least 16 people.  The Goshen Scout Reservation was shut down yesterday for an indefinite period of time.  According to a recent Associated Press report, public health officials who visited Goshen examined its food handling and storage practices and recommended changes, said Robert Hicks, director of the Office of Environmental Health Services.

Last year alone, over 22 million pounds of beef and vegetables were recalled due to E. coli outbreaks and, currently, there is a multi-state E coli outbreak that has been linked to Nebraska Beef supplied to Kroger Grocery, among others.  This outbreak is possibly linked to an emerging outbreak that was just reported in Massachusetts, where six people have been confirmed stricken with E. coli 0`57:H7.

Meanwhile, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reports that 67 people attending the camp complained of illnesses, including 16 confirmed cases of E. coli.  "We're going to take the lead from VDH for sure," says Lambert. "They've been working with us day in and day out to rule out the lake water, the water supply, and the kitchen.  You know, all those kinds of things.  We'll follow their lead on what we have to do next."  Those confirmed infected have been infected with E. coli 0157:H7, a seriously virulent and sometimes deadly strain of E. coli.

Of the 16 who fell ill, 15 are Boy and Cub Scouts; one adult is confirmed poisoned by E. coli.  Of these, there have been 10 hospitalizations.  Six of these patients were treated and released and, of the four remaining, two had hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).  HUS occurs when the toxin produced by the bacterium enters the bloodstream, according to Health Department epidemiologist, Christopher Novak.  HUS can lead to kidney failure and can require dialysis

The Virginia Department of Health said it began receiving reports last Sunday when boys from about 70 troops returned home after spending a week at Goshen, with approximately 1,700 people passing through Goshen last week, said Novak, who added, "This one is challenging in that it has multiple states involved, and the individuals there are fairly dispersed," he said. "We are trying to … as quickly as possible, get a sense of how widespread the outbreak may be, how many people are ill."  Reports indicate that many as 60-70 people are now exhibiting symptoms of E. coli infection.

E. coli strain 0157:H7 is a particularly virulent strain that produces a powerful toxin that can cause severe illness—blood poisoning, cystitis, septicemia—and even death and is the leading cause of food and waterborne illness in the U.S.  According to Center of Disease Control (CDC) estimates, there are about 73,000 reported cases of infection yearly with 2,100 hospitalizations and 61 deaths.  It is estimated that for every laboratory-confirmed E. coli O157:H7 infection, another four-to-eight symptomatic cases are missed.  And, now, emerging data confirms the negative health effects of E. coli can remain for months and years; can have long-term, lasting effects; and can appear months or years after the original illness.

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