Marler Clark has learned that local Seattle health officials are investigating two outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7, the potentially deadly foodborne pathogen that first became widely known during a 1993 outbreak linked to Seattle-area Jack in the Box restaurants. The outbreaks are reportedly linked to a local nursing home and restaurant.
In the last two weeks outbreaks of E. coli have led to recalls ground beef produced in Georgia, and prepackaged lettuce sold in Minnesota, once again reminding us that E. coli is not a bacterium of the past. The bacterium, which lives in the intestines of healthy livestock, can cause a deadly infection in otherwise healthy individuals when it is ingested via contaminated food or water.
When ingested, E. coli O157:H7 attaches itself to the inside surface of the large intestine and causes inflammation of the intestinal wall. Symptoms of E. coli infection typically appear within 2-10 days, and include severe stomach cramping, followed by diarrhea, which can become grossly bloody. Children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems are most at-risk for developing E. coli infection and Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome or Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura – complications that can lead to kidney failure.