In early September, the Philadelphia Department of Health addressed a series of fourteen E. coli related sicknesses from August by issuing a public health warning to the city’s residents and visitors, confirming that there was and may still be an active outbreak of the infectious bacteria. This statement from September 5 confirmed that at least some of the fourteen infected citizens had some restaurant visits in common, but declined to name the restaurants or their locations to the public.
The infected range from seven to ninety years of age, and all presented with moderate to severe stomach issues, including “acute gastroenteritis with bloody and non-bloody diarrhea,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. These fourteen cases are all believed to be related to Shiga-toxin E. coli, whose symptoms grow stronger and more serious the longer the infection remains untreated. In addition to the various stomach issues this sort of infection causes, dehydration is also a concern because of the rapid loss of bodily fluids.
This particular strain of E. coli can have more serious implications if left untreated, as it can develop into far more severe symptoms and can even lead to organ failure and ultimately death if left untreated or in infant or elderly patients. This condition, known as hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), “HUS usually develops seven to 14 days after diarrhea begins and can result in kidney failure, seizures, coma, or death,” per the Philadelphia Inquirer. Infected people have about two weeks before HUS develops, so it is important that those suffering from the prior symptoms of acute stomach pain and constant diarrhea go to the hospital if the symptoms persist more than a few days to avoid serious consequences.
Since the Philadelphia Department of Health did not disclose the restaurants that some of the fourteen infected had in common, so it is difficult to advise how those living in or visiting the Pennsylvania city should react to the outbreak or avoid infection themselves. According toe national E. coli Lawyer Ron Simon, ” we hope that this information will be released by the Philadelphia Department of Health, the organization charged with keeping its citizens safe and healthy, as soon as these infections can be definitively pinpointed to particular restaurants. Infections like these are usually caused by some sort of exposure to human or animal fecal matter.”
As of now, those with compromised immune systems should be cautions in eating out in Philadelphia, and should be mindful of the symptoms of E. coli poisoning, including severe abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea.