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Ecoli O103 Outbreak in Kentucky Kids Linked to Fast Food

Posted in E. coli,Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls on March 28, 2019

Today, the Mercer County Health Department announced that there is an Ecoli O103 outbreak linked to “extensive fast food exposure.” At this time, the health agency has not yet announced what fast food restaurants those who were ill ate at. Many of those who are ill are children, but the outbreak does not appear to just be limited to children. The health department has confirmed 19 cases in central Kentucky. This investigation into this outbreak is ongoing, but here is what we currently know about the Ecoli O103 Kentucky Kids Fast Food Outbreak:

The Facebook Notice

According to the Mercer County Health Department’s Facebook announcement:

“Kentucky Department for Public Health issued an alert regarding a sudden increase in e. coli O103 cases in Kentucky. These cases, reported March 5-25, 2019, have been found in children and teenagers with an extensive exposure to fast food. The outbreak is not limited to young people. Acute diarrhea is a symptom of e. coli 0103 infection. Please seek medical attention and ask the clinician about possible e. coli infection.”

About Ecoli O103

Ecoli O103 is a rare strain of a non-O157 STEC Ecoli. We recently saw this stained linked to a recall of beef products and foreign veal products in 2017 and other beef products in 2016 and 2014. Recent studies confirm that “E. coli O103:H2 is one of the most common non-O157 STEC serotypes isolated from human cases in Europe.”

What is concerning is that medical providers and laboratories do not test for non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), like STEC O103. Why? It is because it is harder to find. Science is still catching up with research about the non-O157 STEC E. coli, as older laboratory tests did not identify these bacteria. However, with new lab methods, new information about these types will be forthcoming.

But its signs and symptoms are pretty much the same to those of a typical STEC Ecoli infection. Symptoms usually show between 2–8 days after eating contaminated food products. The symptoms typically range from abdominal pain to diarrhea, but could become more sever to include bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and acute kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). There is sometimes a low-grade fever associated with the infection as well.

It is crucial to seek emergency medical treatment if you are showing any signs or symptoms of E. coli  infection as prompt treatment could prevent further serious complications.

Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is uncommon with STEC O103 infection. But that doesn’t mean it cannot happen. HUS is more common in children under the age of 5 years old, but can happen in adults as well — especially those who are elderly and have weakened immune systems. According to the CDC, the incidence rate of E. coli poisoning in children under 5 is more than double the next closest age group, which is children age 5 to 9. Young children under 5 have an incidence rate of 7.86 cases per 100,000; almost triple the overall incidence rate.

If a case of Ecoli food poisoning has progressed to HUS, symptoms such as decreased frequency in urination, fatigue, and loss of color in the eyes and cheeks may be present. HUS is a very serious complication that needs to be treated as quickly as possible. Untreated HUS may result in death. If you or a loved one begins to show the symptoms of Ecoli poisoning, contact a medical professional. Immediate medical attention can potentially reduce the risk of long-term complications.

Seek medical attention and follow your physician’s recommendations

Ecoli can potentially spread from person to person through direct contact. Again, the transmission is mainly fecal-to-oral; however, it is very easy for someone who is immunocompromised or even a young child to become ill from something as simple as touching a door knob that was used by an ill person who neglected to wash their hands. People who have been positively diagnosed with Ecoli infection should heed their physician’s advisements, take any medications prescribed, and maintain good hygienic habits.


Despite the incidences of Ecoli contamination this year, there is good news. You can easily and effectively protect yourself from Ecoli infection. As with other good food safety practices, proper sanitation and cooking temperatures are key to ensuring you and your family prevent illness. Some of these practices include:

  • Avoid drinking raw milk and eating raw milk products. Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized. More or less, it is straight from cow to bottle – no heating, no killing of bacteria.
  • Avoid drinking unpasteurized juice. Alike to raw milk, unpasteurized juice can also be contaminated with E. coli in a wide variety of ways. Pasteurization is proven to kill E. coli if a particular fruit or vegetable has come into contact with it.
  • Use a Meat Thermometer. An investment of a good quality meat thermometer is always a good idea for food safety as a whole, but a great idea when it comes to preventing E. coli infection. As a prevention tool, it is best to cook meat thoroughly until it reaches a temperature of at least 160° F for beef, and 165° F for chicken. One cannot decipher the temperature and doneness of meat purely by sight – meaning that, just because it is not pink, does not mean it is done. Be cautious and use the thermometer.
  • Wash Your Hands!!! Beyond the obvious practice of good hygiene. If you are someone who works with food, meticulous hygiene is a must.
    • Wash the kitchen’s food preparation areas, countertops, etc.
    • Wash your hands, and often.
    • Sanitize your dishes. The Food and Drug Administration recommends you “sanitize them [the aforementioned areas] with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; then dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.”

The Lange Law Firm 

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

If you were infected with Ecoli after eating fast food, and are interested in making a legal claim for compensation, our E.coli attorney can help.  Call us for a free no obligation legal consultation at (833) 330-3663, or send us an e-mail here.

By: The News Desk