One death reported in Oklahoma Ecoli outbreak
September 1, 2008
Oklahoma health officials they are searching for the source of a rare form of E. coli that has killed one person, a 26 year old male, and sickened 175 others in the northeastern part of the state.
The subtype of bacteria — called E. coli 0111 — is “not normally found in this form of outbreak,” said Leslea Bennett-Webb, director of communication for the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
More than 50 people have been hospitalized and nine people — six of them children — have been placed on dialysis, she said.
She said the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, helped state officials determine the subtype, but said the cause of the outbreak remains unknown.
Tests carried out on water from a well on restaurant property indicate the presence of bacteria, but “we have not been able to confirm what kind of bacteria,” said Skylar McElhaney, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.
The Oklahoma Department of Health will analyze them and compare them with samples taken from victims, she said. “We can’t say for sure that it is tied to the water in any way, but we also cannot rule it out,” she said.
Symptoms of infection with the bacteria can include severe diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, vomiting and severe abdominal cramping, said Larry Weatherford of the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Many people became ill after consuming food at the Country Cottage restaurant in Locust Grove recently although the restaurant though has not yet been named as the actual origin of the outbreak.
Outbreaks have been associated with undercooked ground beef (used for hamburgers), vegetables grown in cow manure or washed in contaminated water.
In the US, E. coli is the leading cause of food-borne illness. About 73,000 people are infected and 61 people die from E. coli annually; last year, over 22 million pounds of beef and vegetables were recalled due to E. coli outbreaks.
Scientists have expressed serious concern that infections from antibiotic resistant E. coli bacteria are spreading into the greater population and several countries also now report cases of antibiotic-resistant E. coli. Researchers compare the E. coli threat to the worldwide problem of community-acquired MRSA—methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus—an antibiotic-resistant staph developing resistance to the last drug of choice.
In addition to the spread of E. coli and the growing resistance of the infection to traditional medications, emerging data confirms that the negative health effects of E. coli can remain for months and years later. It was believed that once we recover from a food-related contamination that we are healed and the illness is gone. According to recent research, these illnesses can have long-term, lasting effects that can either linger for months or years or can show up months or years after the original illness was seemingly resolved. As part of their studies, researchers found that some children who suffered severe cases of E. coli developed health problems later in life, such as kidney problems, high blood pressure, and kidney failure; the health problems appeared as late as 10 to 20 years later.