January 23, 2018

How Many Have Been Sickened by Farm Rich Products?

The latest E. coli outbreak in the United States has been linked to recalled Farm Rich products. According to the CDC, there are currently 24 victims in 15 states. Seven people have been hospitalized with E. coli 0121 infections, and at least one has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe complication of the infection that can cause kidney failure.

But there are more than likely more than 24 victims of this outbreak. The National Institutes of Health conducted a study that found that for every E. coli infection reported to the government, there are 20 cases that go unreported. That means there are most likely at least 480 people who have been sickened in this particular outbreak. Public health officials use this number, called a multiplier, to estimate how many people are sickened in each outbreak. For Salmonella bacteria, the multiplier is 30.3. For other bacteria that cause severe illness that almost always requires a doctor’s help or a visit to the emergency room, such as Clostridium botulinum and Listeria monocytogenes, the multiplier is only 2.

In addition, most hospital and clinical laboratories don’t identify Shiga-toxin producing E. coli bacteria other than 0157:H7. In order to make a diagnosis, stool samples are tested for Shiga toxins that the STEC bacteria produce. If the toxins are found, the samples are then cultured to look for the outbreak strain of the bacteria.

The symptoms of an E. coli infection include watery and/or bloody diarrhea, severe stomach and abdominal cramps, possible nausea, vomiting, and mild fever. For healthy adults, most people recover without medical treatment. But they can pass the infection along to others who may not be as lucky. That is one of the reasons why an E. coli infection is a reportable disease.

Even if you contract this infection and recover, you could still have health problems down the road. An E. coli 0121 infection raises the risk that you will have kidney disease or other health issues in the future. So if you have eaten these products and exhibited any of the symptoms of an E. coli infection, see your doctor to protect your health.

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