Vermont Reports Two More E. coli Cases in Outbreak ThereOct 16, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Earlier this week we reported on an emerging E. coli outbreak in which eight people were diagnosed with a food borne illness that was possibly linked to undercooked ground beef. Now, the Vermont Department of Health issued another warning against the consumption of undercooked meat in response to two new cases of E. coli infection. All of those infected—including one child who was hospitalized—are recovering from bacterial illnesses, which health experts traced to a single source of ground beef distributed to “a few restaurants in Vermont,” according to a department release.
E. coli are a group of bacteria found in animal intestines and feces. Some strains are necessary for digestion; some are harmful, even deadly, such as the very rare and toxin-producing strain E. coli O111 that made headlines in the recent Oklahoma outbreak representing the largest U.S. outbreak of E. coli O111 in history. Also, of concern is the virulent, sometimes deadly E. coli O157:H7 strain that is generally found to be the culprit in E. coli-related food-borne illness outbreaks. Both strains are among those E. coli that may cause serious disease and death and are in a group called Verocytotoxigenic E. coli (VTEC) that are linked to food poisoning. VTECs are very serious and can cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, deadly septicemia, and death.
Left untreated, E. coli toxicity can result in kidney damage and failure, said Deputy State Epidemiologist Susan Schoenfeld. â€¨â€¨“It’s important to remember that eating undercooked meat—as well as consuming raw milk products—is always a risk for E. coli and other bacteria that can cause severe illness, especially in young children, the elderly, or people with serious medical conditions,” she said. â€¨â€¨The Department of Health release stated that cooking ground meat beyond the pink stage is no guarantee that harmful bacteria have been killed and recommends using a thermometer to verify food has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Acting State Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso reported all of the people who fell ill from apparent E. coli poisoning reported having eaten out. The Health Department there is warning people not to eat undercooked hamburger and also recommends avoiding unpasteurized milk, and washing fruits and vegetables.
In the US, E. coli is the leading cause of food-borne illness, accounting for about 73,000 infections and 61 deaths; last year, over 22 million pounds of beef and vegetables were recalled due to E. coli outbreaks. Worse, food borne contaminations are exacerbated with a food path that is difficult to police because the food-surveillance system is outdated, under-funded, and overwhelmed by the emergence of mega-farms, mega-distribution centers, and mega-transporters.
And, now, infectious diseases are becoming more resistant to bacteria because of antibiotic overuse and abuse with instances of drug resistant E. coli being reported world-wide and similar in path to a mutated staph called MRSA—Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. When not treated early, MRSA is resistant to all but the one antibiotic of last resort. In addition to the spread of E. coli and the growing antibiotic resistance of infections, there is compelling data that the negative health effects of E. coli can remain for months and years later confirming these illnesses can have long-term, lasting effects that can either linger for months or years or can show up months or years—as late as 10-to-20 years—after the original illness.