At least eight people are sick in an E.coli outbreak that may be associated with the Twisted Fork restaurant in south Reno, Nevada. The Washoe County Health District is investigating.
Public health officials were notified of the outbreak on November 4, 2015, with six cases reported at that time. These cases are not related to the E. coli outbreak linked to High Hill Farms apple juice in California or the outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in Oregon and Washington state.
There is no information on the age range of the patients, or when they ate at the restaurant. There is also no information on whether or not people have been hospitalized in this outbreak. The restaurant is cooperating with government officials, and remains open.
Dr. Randall Todd with the Washoe County Health District says that patients are being interviewed, and not all of those sickened may have contracted the illness at the same place. Several of those sickened did eat at the Twisted Fork restaurant before they got sick.
Testing on environmental samples taken at the restaurant, food served there, and ingredients used to make the food are underway. Stool samples taken from patients are also being analyzed to see if they are the same strain of E. coli bacteria.
E. coli outbreaks can happen at any time and anywhere. They can be linked to contaminated produce, to contaminated beef, especially ground beef, that is not properly cooked, or to ill food handlers. Twisted Fork management told several news outlets that this issue is a “complete surprise”. The restaurant was last inspected on April 24, 2015, and received a score of 98.
E. coli bacteria is found in the guts of ruminant animals, such as cows and goats. Those animals do not get sick from that bacteria. When contaminated feces get into the ground water, and that water is used to irrigate crops, produce can become contaminated. And when cattle are slaughtered, their intestines can burst and contaminate the whole cuts of beef. When that meat is ground into hamburger, the bacteria is spread all through the product.
The symptoms of an E. coli infection include severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea that may be bloody and/or watery, a mild fever, and perhaps nausea and vomiting. Symptoms usually appear three to four days after exposure to the pathogenic bacteria, but the illness can take up to ten days to manifest. Dehydration is the most common complication with this illness.
If an E. coli infection is treated with antibiotics, or if the patient is younger than the age of five or has underlying health conditions, it can develop into hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This serious complication is caused by shiga toxins that some strains of E. coli produce. The shiga toxins attack red blood cells, which then clog the kidneys. Kidney failure and death can result.
If you ate at the Twisted Fork restaurant in the law month and have experienced these symptoms, please see your doctor. A correct diagnosis is crucial to a good outcome.