E. Coli Outbreak in Philadelphia: 16 Cases and Counting
The City of Philadelphia is currently under investigation by The Department of Public Health due to 16 cases of Escherichia coli (E.Coli) reported since August 30.
The Department of Public Health has not yet given a statement as to the origin of this outbreak and may not be able to for some time. When an outbreak occurs anyone who has fallen ill must report a detailed list of every food (down to its individual ingredients when possible) that they have consumed during the incubation period for the bacteria. In this case, that is likely 2 hours to two weeks prior to onset of symptoms. The Department of Public Health must then review each of these to determine any linkages which reveal the cause of the outbreak. This means the investigation can take some time.
However, it has been determined that the E. coli strain affecting Philadelphia produces Shiga-toxins. The most common E. coli strains which produce Shiga-toxins include E. coli O157:H7,E. coli O145, and E. coli O121:H19, though there are others. Shiga-toxins infect and irritate the gastrointestinal tract causing acute stomach pain and are most commonly accompanied by very bloody diarrhea. While E. coli infection can usually be overcome within a week or two, it poses a particular threat to anyone with a compromised immune system such as the pregnant, elderly, young, or sick. The age range of cases presented from this outbreak are from 7 to 90 years old. The shared symptoms of the 16 people so far include nonbloody diarrhea at first, followed by bloody diarrhea after 2-3 days.
The Department of Public Health stated in an alert that the “Case investigation is ongoing but thus far has identified a few shared restaurant exposures,” although the names of these will not be revealed until further evidence presents is found. According to National Food Poisoning Lawyer Ron Simon, “this is standard operating procedure for most health agencies. We hope to find out the common source, or at least which restaurants the victims ate at.”
Meanwhile, persons who reside in Philadelphia, and who suffer a compromised immune system, have been encouraged to use caution when eating out during the time of E. coli outbreak. Additionally, they are advised to avoid food through which E. coli is generally spread such as raw milk, raw sprouts, and raw meats. Finally, the best way to avoid the spread of E. coli to yourself and others during an outbreak is to take extra care in hand-washing after using the restroom and before and after cooking.