October 24, 2016

Carbon E. coli Outbreak: 50 Sick, 14 Hospitalized

The E. coli outbreak linked to Carbon Live Fire Mexican grill has expanded to include 50 people, hospitalizing 14 of them, according to a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Public Health. The restaurant, located at 300 W. 26th Street in the South Side Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago, has been closed until the investigation is complete. The food source of the outbreak has not yet been identified.

E.-coli microscope

Health officials urge anyone who ate restaurant and develops symptoms of an E. coli infection which include abdominal cramping and diarrhea that can be bloody, to seek medical attention and mention exposure to shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC). E. coli infections should not be treated with antibiotics or anti-diarrheal medications as they can worsen symptoms or cause life-threatening complications such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which leads to kidney failure. HUS develops in about 5 to 10 percent of E.coli which most commonly affects young people with E. coli infections, can also cause seizure, stroke, coma and death.

“The size and scope of this E. coli outbreak is very large for a restaurant-based outbreak.  The problem was clearly widespread and repeated over many, many meals,” said Brendan Flaherty, a food safety attorney who is representing a customer who became ill. The Chipotle E coli outbreak, which included multiple locations in 11 states sickened 55 people.

In 2013 , an E.coli outbreak linked to Federico’s Mexican Restaurant in Litchfield Park, AZ sickened 94 people. It was  one of the largest E.coli outbreaks of the decade, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

That outbreak occurred during July and August, at least 23 people were hospitalized. Two people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome HUS.  Health officials strongly suspect lettuce was the food source.

Officials from the Maricopa County Public Health Department concluded that because other restaurants that received lettuce from the same supplier did not have illnesses, Federico’s could have received a small batch of contaminated lettuce and spread the bacteria through improper washing techniques. Cross contamination from another food, such as beef, was also a possibility, they said in a final report about the outbreak issued in November.

Health officials gave Federico’s recommendations on the handling and storage of lettuce and handwashing protocols to minimize E.coli contamination. The restaurant, which closed for a time to do an extensive cleaning, complied with all recommendations made by health officials  before reopening.


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