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E coli O121 Outbreak Announced, Source a Mystery

Posted in E. coli,Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls on July 14, 2021

Ecoli O121 is back in the news with a mystery source. Here’s what we know about this E coli O121 Outbreak:

15 people are sick from an unknown number of states. We do know that more than one state is involved, due to the CDC’s investigation and reporting.

Otherwise, the CDC and FDA are continuing their search for a source and hopefully, traceback to a manufacturer or grower.

In the meantime, they offer the following advice:

“Although most healthy people will recover from a foodborne illness within a short period of time, some can develop chronic, severe, or even life-threatening health problems. In addition, some people are at a higher risk for developing foodborne illness, including pregnant women, young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems (such as transplant patients and individuals with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or diabetes). To keep your family safer from food poisoning, follow these four simple steps: clean, separate, cook, and chill.”

About Ecoli O121

The exact strain of E. coli involved in these cases is Ecoli O121. Although it isn’t Ecoli O157, it can still be dangerous.

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.

Symptoms of the outbreak strain E. coli O121 may vary from person to person in severity with those in higher risk demographics such as the very young, the very old, and those with a compromised immune system at highest risk of infection and complication.

Onset often occurs somewhere around 3 to 4 days after consuming contaminated food but can occur anywhere from 1 to 10 days after exposure.  You can also become sick from coming in contact with contaminated foods or food surfaces without washing your hands or consuming raw or undercooked beef products.  Food sanitation and cooking to an appropriate internal temperature of 160 ⁰F to 165 ⁰F for ground beef and ground beef containing casseroles respectively.

Symptoms generally last around 5 to 7 days with some people experiencing a longer illness.  The most common symptoms include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea that is often bloody, and vomiting.

Non-O157 STEC Ecoli are Still Dangerous

“The most commonly identified STEC infections in North America are E. coli O157:H7 (often shortened to E. coli O157 or even just O157). When you hear news reports about outbreaks of E. coli infections, they are usually talking about E. coli O157.”

However, there are other non-O157 STEC forms of E. coli as well, including E. coli O26, E coli O103, E. coli O111, E. coli O121, E. coli O45, and E. coli O145. In the past, these strains were difficult to find, as there was little research done on them. According to a recent study by L. H. Gould, this is shifting because “Non-O157 STEC infections are being recognized with greater frequency because of changing laboratory practices.”

Just recently, the USDA announced that it is expanding its testing strategies to include more non-O157 STEC Ecoli variants. According to the USDA’s June 4, 2020 announcement,

“The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is announcing plans to expand its routine verification testing for six Shiga toxin- producing Escherichia coli (non-O157 STEC; O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, or O145) that are adulterants, in addition to the adulterant Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7, to ground beef, bench trim, and raw ground beef components other than raw beef manufacturing trimmings (i.e., head meat, cheek meat, weasand (esophagus) meat, product from advanced meat recovery (AMR) systems, partially defatted chopped beef and partially defatted beef fatty tissue, low temperature rendered lean finely textured beef, and heart meat)(hereafter “other raw ground beef components”) for samples collected at official establishments. STEC includes non-O157 STEC; O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, or O145, that are adulterants, and E. coli O157:H7. Currently, FSIS tests only its beef manufacturing trimmings samples for these six non-O157 STEC and E. coli O157:H7; all other aforementioned raw beef products are presently tested for E. coli O157:H7 only. FSIS also intends to test for these non-O157 STEC in ground beef samples that it collects at retail stores and in applicable samples it collects of imported raw beef products. FSIS is requesting comments on the proposed sampling and testing of ground beef, bench trim, and other raw ground beef components. FSIS will announce the date it will implement the new testing in a subsequent Federal Register notice.”

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 with HUS need to be hospitalized. Treatment generally depends on the condition of the patient and can happen through transfusion, medication or surgery.

How The Lange Law Firm Can Help

Our mission is to help families who have been harmed by contaminated food or water.  When corporations cause Ecoli food poisoning outbreaks, we use the law to hold them accountable.  The Lange Law Firm is one of the only law firms in the nation focused on representing families in food poisoning lawsuits.

If you got sick in this latest Ecoli Outbreak and are interested in making a legal claim for compensation, we can help. We want you to know that an E coli Lawyer at the Lange Law Firm, PLLC is currently investigating this matter and offering free legal consultations. Our lawyer, Jory Lange became a lawyer to help make our communities and families safer. Anyone who was infected with E coli from romaine lettuce may be entitled to compensation for their injuries.  To learn more about this outbreak or making an E coli food poisoning claim, please contact the Lange Law Firm, PLLC by phone or contact us online.

If you or a loved one have become ill with E coli in this latest E. coli O121 Outbreak, you can call (833) 330-3663 for a free legal consultation or complete the form here.