From Mary Kugler,
Mainly from contaminated food
In March 2003 a lawsuit was filed against the Kettleman City, California, In-N-Out Burger. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a girl who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) after eating at the restaurant and is now at risk for developing kidney damage.
In April 2000, seven people died and more than 2,000 became ill after drinking contaminated water in Walkerton, Ontario, Canada. In July 2000, 40 people became ill after eating at a Milwaukee Sizzler restaurant; one child died.
HUS mainly from bacteria
The more common type of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), as in the cases above, occurs after a person has been infected with bacteria, usually E. coli, from contaminated food or water. Basically, the bacteria poison the person. Another type of HUS can occur in response to other germs or certain medicines, and very rarely from no known reason.
HUS rare but widespread
Hemolytic uremic syndrome is a condition that results in the destruction of clotting cells (thrombocytopenia) and red blood cells (hemolytic anemia), and causes the kidneys to shut down (renal failure) due to damage in the small blood vessels in the kidneys. It usually affects young children between the ages of 1 and 10 years, but may also occur in adults. HUS affects 2-4 people per 100,000 and occurs all over the world.

HUS occurs after “stomach flu” (gastroenteritis) that includes vomiting, fever, and watery diarrhea, often bloody. Three to 10 days later, HUS begins with symptoms such as:
Sudden paleness (pallor) and irritability
Decreased urination, and the urine may be bloody
Little purple bruises on the skin
Increased blood pressure
There is no particular drug which can cure HUS. Medical care is provided in the hospital treatment for kidney failure, including dialysis, blood transfusions to return the blood to normal, high blood pressure medicine, and a special diet. Intravenous immunoglobulin G (IgG) may be given. It is not clear whether antibiotics can help treat the disease. Unfortunately, 4-5% of patients with HUS will not survive, and many more will develop long-term health problems.
Researchers at The Montreal Children’s Hospital and McGill University Health Centre are working on developing a treatment for HUS. Their work is looking at a special type of drug that would inactivate the poison produced by the E. coli bacteria, and thus stop the disease from getting worse.
Protect yourself and your children
Cook all ground beef and poultry thoroughly. Send restaurant food back if it’s not cooked well.
Don’t drink unpasteurized juices or milk. Juices at a roadside stand would not usually be pasteurized.
Refrigerate ground beef and perishable food right away after shopping.
Wash your hands and food utensils with hot, soapy water after handling meat and poultry.
Information for this article was taken from:
– ScienceDaily Magazine. Hamburger disease drug put to the test. July 31, 2003.
– Lois Joy Galler Foundation for Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. Fact sheet.
– Biega, T. (2002). Hemolytic-uremic syndrome. eMedicine, accessed at
– National Kidney Foundation. Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.