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CDC, FDA, along with several state and local health partners in US are cooperating with Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to investigate a multistate Ecoli O103 and O121 outbreak linked to ground bison produced by Northfork Bison Distributions Inc. of Saint-Leonard, Québec, Canada. Here’s the latest on the Bison Burger Ecoli Outbreak:
A total of 21 people from 7 states have fallen sick. Eight people have been hospitalised. No deaths or cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a complication of STEC, have been reported yet. Here is a breakdown of cases according to states:
New York (9), Florida (4), Pennsylvania (3), New Jersey (2), Michigan (1), Missouri (1) and Connecticut (1).
What products are recalled?
These products were sold to retailers in 4 x 4-ounce blue boxes under the Northfork Bison label as ground bison and bison patties. The recalled products have expiration dates up to October 8, 2020.
Consumers are advised to not eat these burger patties or ground beef. They should either throw them away or return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Wash and sanitise the places where the recalled products were stored. Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell recalled ground bison products. If they aren’t sure, they should check with the supplier to determine if their ground bison product is recalled or not.
Illnesses linked to the outbreak were reported from March 18, 2019 and the last one was reported on June 18, 2019. In interviews, ill people answered questions about what they ate a week prior to the onset of their illness. Out of 9 people, 6 reported that they had or maybe had ground bison at home or at a restaurant.
Epidemiologic and traceback investigation suggested that the ground bison produced by Northfork Bison Distributors Inc. is the likely source of the outbreak. On July 16, 2019, the company recalled ground bison and bison patties produced between February 22, 2019 and April 30, 2019.
Ill people range in age between 6 years to 79 years, with a median age of 25. Fifty-two percent of those who have fallen ill are female. Out of a total of 21 people infected, 6 have been infected with E.Coli O103, 13 with E.Coli O121 and 2 with both.
Both Ecoli O103 and O121 are shiga-toxin producing Ecoli. This means that these kind of strains of E.Coli causes disease by producing a toxin called shiga toxin. It is one of the most potent bacterial toxins currently known. The most common STEC is O157:H7. It is so prevalent that all the other serotypes of E.Coli that are shiga-toxin producing are sometimes referred to as “non-O157 STECs”.
Identification of non-O157 STEC is much more complex. Clinical labs are not able to identify non-O157 STEC. They generally test stool samples for presence of shiga toxins and then send the positive sample to public health laboratories to check for the serotype of non-O157 STEC. In general, it is believed that most of the non-O157 STEC don’t cause as severe complications as O157 STEC. But sometimes they can. Since not much is known about these serotypes, every outbreak becomes a serious health alert for the public.
More illnesses can be added to the outbreak due to the time difference between when a person falls sick and when the illness is reported. So, illnesses that occurred after June 22, 2019 might not be reported yet.
Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), a well-known complication of STEC infections:
Around 5%-10% of the people with STEC illness develops HUS. The risk of developing HUS is highest in children below 5 years of age, adults aged 65 years or older and those who have a weakened immune system. It’s a condition in which small blood vessels in the kidneys becomes damaged or inflamed, which results in clots and ultimately, kidney failure. Symptoms of HUS includes bloody diarrhea, decreased urination, shortness of breath and pale color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids.
Patients of HUS needs to be hospitalised. Treatment generally depends on the condition of the patient and can happen through transfusion, medication or surgery.
How does Ecoli gets into our food?
Ecoli is naturally present in the intestine of many animals including cattle, deer, goats and bison. These animals shed the bacteria in their feces which can then contaminate anything it comes in contact with. Humans infected with the bacteria also shed it in their feces. The bacteria can spread to the meat of animals during slaughtering or when someone who doesn’t properly washes his hands after using the toilet handles the meat. Right now, the reason behind the bison contamination is not known and the investigation is ongoing.
Symptoms generally appear 3 to 4 days after exposure. Most people recover on their own. But some can develop complications and needs to be hospitalised. There is no evidence that antibiotics or antidiarrheal agents help with recovery. Sometimes, they can even increase the risk of HUS.
How to stay safe:
The best way to stay safe from the outbreak is to make sure you don’t consume any recalled products. If you are eating out, then ask the restaurant where the bison is sourced from. Always make sure that you wash your hands properly after using the restroom, handling raw meat products and contact with animals. Cook meat to proper temperature. Ground beef or meat should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Prevent cross-contamination at home by keeping cooked food and fresh fruits & vegetables separate from raw meat.
The Lange Law Firm –www.MakeFoodSafe.com
Our mission is to help families who have been harmed by contaminated food. When corporations cause food poisoning or Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks, we use the law to hold them accountable. The Lange Law Firm is the only law firm in the nation solely focused on representing families in food poisoning lawsuits and Legionnaires disease lawsuits.
If you or your child was infected with Ecoli after eating at Buffalo Burgers and are interested in making a legal claim for compensation, we have an Ecoli lawyer ready to help you. Call us for a free no obligation legal consultation at (833) 330-3663 or send us an e-mail here.
By: Pooja Sharma, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)