According to the Boston Globe, 15 people are now sick in the Chicken & Rice Guys E. coli outbreak in Boston, Massachusetts. Officials are testing food taken from the restaurants, along with stool samples from 120 employees. The restaurants and food trucks are closed during this investigation.
Ten people had to be hospitalized in this outbreak. That is a high percentage in the average E. coli outbreak. The first person got sick on March 30, 2017, and the most recent diagnosis was April 4, 2017.
According to the Globe story, Dr. Anita Barry, director of the Infectious Disease Bureau at the Boston Public Health Commission said that none of those sickened had developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious complication of an E. coli infection. Most of the patients are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.
The scariest symptoms of an E. coli infection are bloody diarrhea, and very painful abdominal cramps. It’s quite easy for a patient to become dehydrated with this type of diarrhea. There is no further information from public health officials on the condition of any of the hospitalized patients.
Three of the patients did not recall eating at any Chicken & Rice Guys restaurant or food truck. But the other twelve did. And none of those sickened in this outbreak are elderly or small children, which are the two populations most vulnerable to HUS development after this infection.
Nine of the 15 patients live in Boston. The rest live in nearby towns and areas.
The health department is not speculating on the source of the pathogenic bacteria. A contaminated food could have caused the illnesses, or an ill employee could have contaminated food or beverages. If any of the food handlers test positive for E. coli, they must have two negative tests before they can return to work.
E. coli outbreaks in the past have been linked to undercooked ground beef, cross-contamination of produce, especially leafy greens, raw flour, and raw milk and unpasteurized cider and juice. The bacteria produce Shiga toxins, which get into the bloodstream and destroy red blood cells. Those damaged cells travel to the kidneys, where they can clog tiny tubes and cause kidney failure.
A Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infection produces symptoms including severe stomach and abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, and a mild fever. If this infection is treated incorrectly with antibiotics, or if the patient is very young or old, it can develop into hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), that can destroy the kidneys. The symptoms of HUS include little urine output, a skin rash, bleeding from the nose or mouth, easy bruising, pale skin, and lethargy.
If you ate at a Chicken & Rice Guys restaurant or food truck in the Boston area in late March or early April and have experienced these symptoms, see your doctor. Even if you recover completely, there are long-term health consequences from this infection. Patients are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure, kidney problems, and heart disease.
Pritzker Hageman, America’s food safety law firm, successfully represents people harmed by adulterated food products in outbreaks throughout the United States. Its lawyers have won hundreds of millions of dollars for survivors of foodborne illness, including the largest verdict in American history for a person harmed by E. coli and hemolytic uremic syndrome. The firm also publishes the E-news site, Food Poisoning Bulletin, a respected source for food safety news and information. Pritzker Hageman lawyers are regularly interviewed by major news outlets including the New York Times, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal. In addition, the firm represents people harmed by pathogenic microorganisms in Legionnaires‘ disease, surgical site infection and product liability cases.