October 15, 2019

E. coli Wrongful Death Takes Community Volunteer in Alabama

The Alabama E. coli death of a 71-year-old man who served as a volunteer in his community is at the center of a food poisoning outbreak in Morgan County that remains under investigation. The E. coli infections have been associated with a luncheon hosted by the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service (ACES). The Alabama Department of Public Health has promised to release a summary of its investigation when the outbreak report is final.

SorrowThe deceased man, Clarence Hampton, was a senior companion volunteer for the Community Action Partnership of North Alabama in Decatur. The leader of that organization, Chief Executive Officer Michael Tubbs, has said that at least 24 employees and volunteers of the group fell sick after the luncheon. Hampton’s sister said she was one of the attendees who later tested positive for toxic E. coli, but the illness reports lagged the luncheon by too many days for investigators to test food, according to reports.

State health officials have said that 19 people who attended the ACES luncheon May 30 at Bridge Builders International Church on Beltline Road became sick, some from Salmonella. A report by the Decatur Daily said Clarence Hampton died six days after eating the lunch of chicken with cream sauce, salad and a roll. The event was catered, but the catering company has not been named by state health officials despite public demands for the information.

The Morgan County ACES Facebook site has not made any mention of the outbreak (as of July 11), but the organization provided a recent statement to the Daily. “The Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Program Unit of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System under its Successful Aging Initiative was the sponsor of an SAI Conference held in Morgan County on May 30, 2014. As is customary, meals were served during the conference with strict adherence to all procedures and regulations for health and safety,” the statement said. ACES said in its statement that more than 300 people were served meals at the conference and that it was made aware of two complaints made to the Health Department.

According to estimates by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 3,000 people a year die from foodborne diseases while roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick from food poisoning. In Alabama alone, state health department investigators looked into 74 reports of toxic E. coli poisoning over the 12-month period that ended May 30, 2014. Those investigations confirmed 38 cases of infection by E. coli O157:H7 and other types of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, according to a report by the agency’s Epidemiology Division.

 

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