A Washington E. coli O157:H7 outbreak includes illnesses in King, Snohomish, Benton and Walla Walla counties. King County health officials first discovered the outbreak last week. At that time, seven children, all under the age of 14, were sick. Six of them were hospitalized, two with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a form of kidney failure associated with E. coli infections. Then, neighboring Snohomish County, reported two cases- a woman in her 20s and a child under 10 from separate households. Like all but one of the King County children, the child in Snohomish County was so sick hospitalization was required. When cases popped up in Benton and Walla Walla counties, more than two hundred miles away, the state health department took over the investigation.
Health officials are performing genetic tests on the E. coli cultured from each patient. These tests find the genetic “fingerprint” of each bacterial strain, enabling health officials to find matches. So far, they have confirmed six cases: Benton (1) King (3), Snohomish (1), and Walla Walla (1). Three of these patients have been hospitalized, two of them with HUS.
The matching genetic fingerprints indicate that they were all exposed to the same contaminated food source. They reported onset of illness dates ranging from March 9 to April 21, 2021. They fall into the following age groups: one patient is between the ages of 0-9, two are between the ages of 10-19, one is 20-29, one is 30-39, and one is 70-79.
Health officials have not yet determined the food source of the outbreak, but they believe it may be a fresh, organic produce item. Any kind of produce can become contaminated with E. coli including green beans, squash, celery, carrots and other root vegetables, watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew; cucumbers, avocados, strawberries and leafy greens.
E. coli O157:H7 and HUS
Many E. coli strains exist in nature and are harmless. But E. coli O157:H7, which lives almost exclusively in the intestines of cattle, causes severe illness because it produces a substance that is poison to humans called a Shiga toxin.
Symptoms of an E. coli infection usually develop within three to five days of eating contaminated food and include severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea that can be bloody. Between 5 percent and 10 percent of E. coli patients develop HUS. This condition, which can cause kidney failure, seizure, stroke, coma and death, usually develops one week after the onset of E.coli symptoms. HUS symptoms include pale skin, decreased urination, fatigue, fainting, unexplained weakness and bruising and bloody diarrhea. Anyone with HUS symptoms should seek immediate, emergency medical care.
Pritzker Hageman E. coli lawyers have represented clients in every major E. coli outbreak in the U.S. Our clients have included those who battled HUS and families who have suffered the wrongful death of a loved one. If you were sickened in this outbreak and would like a free consultation with an experienced E. coli lawyer, please contact the Pritzker Hageman E. coli Legal Team. You can reach us by calling 1-888-377-8900, sending a text to 612-261-0856, or by completing the form below. There is no obligation and you don’t pay us unless we win.