King County Public Health is investigating two Shiga toxin-producing E coli (STEC) infections that are associated with Memo’s Mexican Food restaurant in the University District in Seattle. One person lives in King County; the other does not.
The King County resident ate at that restaurant on August 18 and August 24, 2016. The other Washington state resident ate there on August 24, 2016. Public Health received the first report of illness on August 31, 2016. Both persons have recovered. PFGE testing has found that both of the illnesses were caused by the same strain of E. coli bacteria.
There is another E. coli outbreak in that county that is associated with the Matador Restaurant in the Ballard Neighborhood of Seattle. The genetic fingerprint for the strain in the Memo’s outbreak is different from the strain that sickened people in the Matador outbreak. These two clusters of E. coli illnesses do not appear to be related to each other.
It is interesting to note that both of these illness clusters have been caused by strains of E. coli bacteria that have not been seen before in King County. And the strain of bacteria in the illnesses associated with the Matador outbreak has sickened five other people in other states.
An inspection of Memo’s Mexican Food on September 12, 2016 uncovered food safety violations that “may have contributed to this foodborne illness outbreak,” according to the press release. Those issues include improper cooling of food, improper cold holding, reheating of potentially hazardous food, and the potential for cross-contamination.
Those issues were corrected while the inspectors were on site. Officials say that “there is not a concern for ongoing risk of foodborne illness to the public,” so the restaurant was not closed. The restaurant will be re-inspected within two weeks, to make sure that they are complying with food safety regulations.
If you ate at Memo’s Mexican Food restaurant recently and developed the symptoms of an E. coli infection within 10 days, see your doctor. The only way to diagnose this infection is with a stool sample. Proper diagnosis is crucial, since the improper treatment of this infection with antibiotics can increase the risk of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially life-threatening complications.
The symptoms of an E. coli infection include severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea that is bloody and/or watery, a mild fever, nausea, and vomiting. Most people get sick within a few days to a week after they have been exposed to the bacteria. Most people recover on their own, but some become so ill they must be hospitalized.
The symptoms of HUS include little or no urine output, easy bruising, lethargy, a skin rash, and bleeding from the nose and mouth. Anyone who is experiencing these symptoms should be taken to a doctor immediately. Hemolytic uremic syndrome can cause kidney failure, strokes, seizures, and death. Children under the age of 5 are most likely to develop HUS.