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E. coli

It seems like every day we hear about people who experience illness or death arising from exposure to Escherichia coli, more commonly known as E. coli. E. coli is a gram-negative bacterium commonly found in the lower intestines of warm blooded animals (for example, cows). There are many different strains of E. coli - some safe, and some not safe. Individuals may be exposed to E. coli through contaminated water or food, especially by eating raw vegetables and meat.

The dangers of E. coli

Most strains of E. coli are harmless, with E. coli found in our lower intestines naturally. Despite these "safe" strains, there are a few E. coli strains that are extremely dangerous and can produce toxins (Shiga toxins). The E. coli strains that produce toxins are called Shiga toxigenic E. coli (commonly referred to as STEC). A particularly dangerous strain is E. coli 0157:H7. E. coli 0157:H7 can cause abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and kidney failure. In severe cases, individuals exposed to E. coli may need blood transfusions, dialysis or hospitalization and the exposure may ultimately result in death.

Responsibility for E. coli outbreaks

Food producers and distributors have an obligation to make sure they are taking proper precautions to prevent food contamination and E. coli outbreaks. Unfortunately, due to profit motives, some producers elect to cut corners. If the producers fail to take the proper precautions, and people are infected and hurt, the producer will be liable for the pain and suffering they caused.

Just this month the Kansas City Star reported that the family of a Down syndrome man who died in 2010 from eating food contaminated with E. coli had filed suit against three beef companies and a group of retailers for their roles in selling the contaminated product. The suit states that the negligence of all the defendants resulted in the death of the man. While federal officials have not been able to pinpoint the precise source of the contaminated beef, Minnesota health officials say it came from a plant in Kansas.

Protecting the rights of E. coli infected loved ones

If you or anyone you know is hospitalized and diagnosed with E. coli, please make sure to have the hospital identify the specific strain causing the infection looking closely for the E. coli 0157:H7 and/or STEC strain. In addition to making sure that the loved one gets the treatment they need, knowing the specific strain could be extremely important if they elect to pursue legal action. Without information regarding the specific strain of E. coli, it is very difficult to prove that E. coli caused the medical problems.

Read Article: Kansas City Star

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