The food poisoning outbreak linked to apple cider consumed and sold at the Pike County Fall Color Drive in Illinois on October 17 and 18, 2015 has grown to include at least 70 people as of November 6, 2015. Adams and Pike County Health Departments are investigating the outbreak. Those sickened drank apple cider from vendors at several different locations during the event.
Those sickened have been experiencing diarrhea, cramping, and vomiting. Case patients range in age from less than one year to 89 years old. Several people have been hospitalized because their illnesses have been so serious. The illness onset rates in this outbreak range from October 18 through November 4, 2015. New illnesses are being reported daily, according to public health officials. Symptoms include profuse diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and vomiting.
Officials aren’t sure if this outbreak is being caused by the Cryptosporidium parasite or E. coli bacteria. Bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps are common in both illnesses, but in this outbreak, people are experiencing recurrence of symptoms after a brief period of recovery. The symptoms can come and go for up to 30 days. Those symptoms are more typical of Cryptosporidium.
Lab results on the organism responsible for this outbreak are pending. The Illinois Department of Public Health and the CDC are both testing the cider and stool samples.
The symptoms are lasting about 1 to 2 weeks in healthy people. Others have been sick for longer periods of time. Children under the age of 2, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with chronic illnesses and compromised immune systems can be much sicker and their illness can last longer.
If you attended the Color Drive or drank cider purchased from vendors at the Color Drive and have experienced these symptoms, please see your doctor. Public health officials are also asking that you fill out a survey from the Pike County Health Department to help them in their investigation, even if you have been interviewed by Health Department staff.
For now, doctors and health care workers are being asked to test patients who present with these symptoms for both E. coli and Cryptosporidium. While the symptoms of these illnesses are similar, E. coli infections can be much more serious.
If the E. coli bacteria in question produce shiga toxins, those sickened could develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious complication that an cause kidney failure and death. And if someone has an E. coli infection and receives antibiotics for treatment, the risk for HUS development increases. That’s why it’s so critical that anyone sickened in this outbreak see a doctor.
If you purchased cider from vendors at that event, do not consume it. Throw it away in a sealed or double bagged container so other people and animals can’t consume it. Then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, and clean the area where the cider was stored.