Philadelphia officials issued a health alert: Philadelphia E. coli outbreak has already affected 16 people.
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health issued an alert on Thursday, September 5th, concerning an outbreak linked to a Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC). Over the past few weeks, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health has continued to receive reports of people with STEC infections. On Monday, September 9th, it was reported that the number of people infected by the outbreak had already risen to 16. The department of public health stated that they began to receive reports of the outbreak on August 30th. According to public health officials the cluster, a group of people with STEC infections, may be related to shared exposures at restaurants.
The Department of Health said that all 16 reported cases of the E. coli in the Philadelphia E. coli outbreak presented with the same symptoms of acute gastroenteritis with bloody and non-bloody diarrhea. E. coli symptoms typically begin with non-bloody diarrhea that can progress to bloody diarrhea after 2-3 days when hemorrhagic colitis develops. Additional
symptoms may include severe abdominal pain and fever. It’s very important to note that a complication of STEC enteritis is hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), which usually develops 7 to 14 days after diarrhea begins and can result in kidney failure, seizures, coma, or death.
Public Health officials, in an effort to get ahead of the Philadelphia E. coli outbreak, have asked doctors and health providers to test for Shiga-toxin and E. coli in all patients who present symptoms of acute gastroenteritis and to notify the health department of any confirmed cases. The health department is urging people, who have symptoms of E. coli, to contact a health provider as soon as possible and to avoid taking antibiotics unless instructed to by a health provider, as they may increase the risk of HUS. According to the health department, children under the age of 10 are at higher risk of developing HUS, but approximately 6% of people with STEC will develop it.
Exposure to the E. coli bacteria often occurs through contact with food or water contaminated by human or animal stool, or through contact with an infected person. Ron Simon, a national E. coli lawyer, stated “The simple fact is that Shiga toxin-producing E. coli does not accidentally appear in food. It is for this reason that hundreds of years of experience have led to the adoption of quality controls, industry standards, best practices, and related regulations that have been set in place to ensure that the food a consumer buys is safe and free of dangerous pathogens. All restaurants and food manufacturers or distributors must comply with industry standards as well as all applicable health regulations, both state and federal.”