Last summer a 3 year old girl died and 118 others got extremely sick after being stricken with E. coli poisoning at the New York county fair. The E. coli bacteria had seeped into the water supply from the run-off of a cattle farm close to the fair where the cattle were infected with the deadly bacteria. The people at the fair who were infected came in contact with the bacteria either by drinking the water or eating something rinsed in the contaminated water.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control about 76 million people per year in the U.S. will suffer from food poisoning. Of those, 5000 will die. Some forms of food poisoning turn into a condition called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome and this can damage blood vessels, create kidney failure, strokes, coma or blindness.
Food-borne illness or food poisoning is frequently not recognized because of it’s resemblance to the stomach flu. Both food poisoning and the stomach flu share these symptoms: headache, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever. Food poisoning symptoms don’t necessarily show up immediately after eating the contaminated food; they can show up as late as 36 hours later. The one symptom that is unique to food poisoning and not the flu is bloody diarrhea- go to the doctor’s immediately with this symptom. Left untreated some types of food poisoning can be fatal, so seek immediate medical attention particularly if the symptoms are present in a child.
How can you reduce your chances of acquiring food-poisoning? By knowing how it is contracted and avoiding risky situations. Most people have been educated on the proper handling and cooking of meat products to reduce salmonella poisoning (heating it to 140 degrees and proper washing of preparation surfaces). Food items such as salads and desserts that sit out for long periods of time are often the cause of food poisoning. Also shellfish harvested from sewage contaminated waters can be infected with bacteria – so avoiding this food is wise. Beware of the bagged salads that are pre-cut in the grocery stores; they still need to be washed before eating to rinse any bacterial contamination off.