State and national food safety agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the McHenry County Department of Health are furiously trying to get ahead of an outbreak of Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli (STEC), a serious and potentially deadly bacteria that causes severe food poisoning including bloody stools.
Huntley Community School District 158 released a statement indicating that seven students had tested positive, beginning as early as September 17, 2023. The investigation has included taking samples, even of the drinking water and ice on campus. An d while some violations in the health codes were identified during inspections, nothing has yet been identified as the source of the E. coli (STEC) infections.
According to McHenry County Department of Health spokesman Health department spokesman Nick Kubiak, the investigation:
“is very complicated, with multiple potential exposures internally and externally. We are collecting data from multiple sources to be reviewed and analyzed; therefore, no confirmed source of the outbreak has been determined at this time.”
Now, investigators are looking at a larger outbreak of 22 individuals in 10 states.
This begs the question, then, how do officials know this outbreak is part of a larger outbreak of E. coli (STEC)? The answer is quite simple:
The Steps in Identifying an Outbreak
- A victim consumes a food or beverage that is contaminated with a particular pathogen, be it a virus, a parasite or bacteria;
- The victim falls ill with either gastrointestinal illness (the most common result) or is response to some pathogens (like botulism or ciguatoxin), neurological illness ;
- The victims seeks medical attention and is tested for a pathogen, usually thorough a gastrointestinal panel or some other specific test;
- The positive results for many of the pathogens mandates a report to the count health department. These are called “Reportable Diseases”;
- If an outbreak is suspected, further testing may be done by the state health lab. For example there are different strains of the Hepatitis A Virus, thousands of serotypes of salmonella, as well as multiple strains of E. coli, and these may have unique genetic make-up;
- The unique nature and occurrence of many of these tests are uploaded into the National Registry of Infectious Disease via PulseNet;
- If a particular victim’s sample matches another’s sample, the two are very likely “linked.
In the Huntley High Outbreak, the kids stool specimens match those of others in the nation, and hence are likely part of a wider outbreak linked to a commonly sold and consumed item.
According to leading national E. coli Lawyer Ron Simon:
Escherichia coli (or E. coli) infections are a type of foodborne illness caused by consuming food or drinks contaminated with Shiga toxin-producing bacteria. Some of the most implicated foods in E. coli outbreaks include romaine lettuce, unpasteurized or raw milk, undercooked meat, and ground beef.
E.coli infections can sometimes result in severe complications, such as urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, and a type of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). These complications can result in significant financial, emotional, and physical harm.
Because the law requires food handlers to adhere to food safety regulations strictly, you have the legal right to sue any party that fails to do so. Read on to find out everything you need to know about filing an E. coli claim in the United States.
Foodpoisoningnews reached out to several ether food safety experts, including Dr. Fadi Aramouni from the Animal Sciences adn Industry Department at Kansas State University, an expert such pathogens, but again, no leading theories yet exist as to the source of the outbreak.