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For those of us who checked our social media accounts this week, it was highly likely that you saw one (or more) of the many memes trolling about the internet jesting about the latest romaine lettuce outbreak. Some of my fellow food safety pals do not find these memes humorous – which makes sense as the last outbreak linked to ecoli and romaine was deadly. All joking aside, I am ok with the banter. Why? Because it is spreading awareness, like Norovirus. (A little epidemiology joke for all of us geeks.)
One of the biggest problems we have when it comes to tainted food is getting the word out for people to stop eating it. And with the noise we all hear everyday in the news and media, it is easy to miss something (or not get the entire story). This is why viral memes have become so important (in my opinion) during this outbreak. Yes, they are silly. Yes, they are funny. Yes, it is dark humor. But I am happy that they are making waves on social media. Because if just one person avoids eating romaine and does not get sick, then the meme did its job.
Another good thing about this is that people tend to do some sort of research when it comes on a platform like this. “Romaine is bad. Why? Let’s Google it.” By spreading around a viral, tongue-in-cheek meme, people are becoming inspired. Maybe they are making their own memes? They are sharing the silly memes to their friends, neighbors, children, families, and grandma who may not have s social media account. One of my friends even jokes that she was “cancelling” Thanksgiving (because there was a salad on her menu), and having pizza instead. She commented, “at least we can still have pie.”
She is not alone. Several people took to Twitter where the lettuce puns continued:
There was even a play on the hurricane and natural disaster check-ins created by Facebook:
Here’s another on for you 80s babies:
All joking aside, Ecoli is nothing to laugh about. STEC Ecoli is especially concerning. Something that can cause kidney failure and central nervous system issues is the last subject one would think of would be punny.
The best action for anyone during a foodborne illness outbreak is to romaine, er, remain calm and know what to look out for. Also, by cooking foods to their optimum cooking temperature, like beef to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, washing hands, and keeping raw foods aware from ready-to-eat foods, you can reduce the risk for E. coli infection.
If you or someone in your family have eaten a product related to this outbreak and become ill, urgent medical attention is recommended. E. coli symptoms can manifest anywhere from 1 to 9 days after eating a contaminated product. Typical symptoms can include: vomiting, watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, and sometimes, a low grade fever. Oftentimes, symptoms will become more severe and develop into bloody diarrhea.
According to the FDA, “Most people get better within 5–7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening. Around 5–10 percent of those who are diagnosed with STEC infection develop a potentially life-threatening complication, known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).” Children are especially susceptible for developing HUS due to an Ecoli infection.
Hemolytic uremic syndrome is tricky because at that point in the illness, the diarrhea symptoms seem to be improving and a parent might optimistically think their child is getting better and just needs some extra rest to heal.
Since children are at high risk during an outbreak like this, it is a good idea to keep an eye out for symptoms and other ways to prevent illness. As parents, it is important to balance our desire to be health conscious and supportive of healthy food movements with a dose of caution when it comes to uncooked foods. There is a reason why some cities have laws that restaurants cannot buy food from local farmer’s markets to serve patrons in their restaurants — these smaller establishments usually do not have as many health safety checks in place to insure that their food will not accidentally become contaminated with foodborne illnesses like E. coli.
The only way to know for sure if your child (or you) is infected is for a doctor to order a laboratory test of their stool specimen. Many doctors, if they don’t test for E. coli, first, could mistakenly diagnose your child with a more generalized bacterial infection and prescribe antibiotics. In fact, New York’s health department warns that antibiotics should not be used to treat E. coli because in some cases it can increase the risk of complications.
This is why testing is so important prior to diagnosis and treatment of stomach illnesses like E. coli (and other foodborne illnesses). You must ask your doctor specifically to test for E. coli 0157:H7, especially if your child has bloody diarrhea, because it is a specialized test that the doctor will need to order.
The overwhelming majority of foodborne illnesses in the United States are never reported to public health agencies. Local and state health agencies recommend that patients diagnosed with food poisoning report cases of food poisoning. Based on the time it takes for test results to return and the national databases to be updated, the state and federal agencies speculate that there may be more cases linked to the outbreak. Medical providers have obtained stool samples from the identified victims to test for genetic matches. By linking illnesses to food products, the health agencies can do traceback investigations to find the brand or grower of the romaine, and recall it from stores.
If you believe you have developed an E coli infection from eating romaine lettuce, 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.
If you or a loved one have become ill with E coli, you can call (833) 330-3663 for a free legal consultation or complete the form here.
By: Candess Zona-Mendola, Editor (Non-Lawyer)