November 16, 2019

Philadelphia E. coli Outbreak Sickens At Least 14

A Philadelphia E. coli outbreak has sickened at least 14 people, according to a Health Alert issued by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. Public health officials “have identified a few shared restaurant exposures,” in their ongoing case investigation, but no one restaurant or food has been named so far.

Philadelphia E. coli Outbreak Sickens At Least 14

In the past, E. coli outbreaks have been linked to ground beef, flour, animals at county fairs, raw milk, and lettuce. Just about any food can be contaminated with this pathogen through cross-contamination. The source of E. coli is typically found in the guts of ruminant animals such as cows and goats and is shed in their feces. Person-to-person transmission is also possible because the infectious does is small; just 10 bacteria.

The patient age range in this outbreak is from 7 to 90 years. All have been sick with ¬†“signs of acute gastroenteritis with bloody and non-bloody diarrhea.” Cases have been reported to public health officials since August 30, 2019.

The city has also stated that all of the illnesses were due to shiga toxin E. coli. This pathogen produces shiga toxins that destroy red blood cells and attack the lining of the intestines. These toxins can eventually cause kidney damage, strokes, and even death.

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Doctors are being asked to be aware of this outbreak and to test for E. coli infections if patients present with acute gastroenteritis. E. coli infections are reportable, so doctors are required to tell public health officials about any diagnosed cases. Any person diagnosed with this illness cannot return to work or school until they have had 2 negative stool cultures, according to the Health Alert.

Symptoms of an E. coli infection include a low fever, severe and painful abdominal cramps, diarrhea that may be bloody, and vomiting. These symptoms usually start a few days after exposure to the pathogen. Illnesses last about a week; some people are hospitalized because of dehydration or other complications.

In some populations, especially in children under the age of 5, a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) can develop that can cause kidney failure. Information from the city did not state whether or not anyone has develop HUS or if there have been any hospitalizations among the patients sickened in this outbreak. Symptoms of HUS include little urine output, pale skin, lethargy, easy bruising, and bleeding from the nose or mouth.

Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible. If you live in this area and have been experiencing these symptoms, you may be part of this Philadelphia E. coli outbreak.

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