Long-Term Sequelae of E.coli 0157:H7

TASA ID: 733

As we eat in places other than our kitchen, poor sanitation and contamination of food sources become a significant problem.  Although the FDA has established a series of guidelines for food safety, CDC incidence reports of Listeria, Salmonella and E. coli 0157:H7 are on the rise.  Some of the acute clinical symptoms related to these types of bacterial infection appear to be self-limiting, but the reality is that life-long problems persist.  Of interest to the lawyer and patient is to ensure that these significant risk factors are considered when the damages to the person are assessed.  With potential exposure sources ranging from beef to watermelon, enterohemorrhagic  E. coli  0157:H7 can result in death.  In addition to the most common symptoms of acute infection, i.e. abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, chills, malaise, nausea, and headache, the more severe cases quickly progress to hemorrhagic colitis and/or hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) with renal failure.  Of those people, usually children and elderly, who do get HUS, approximately 5% die, and at least 30% have life-long complications.  Although diarrhea (sometimes bloody) is a common characteristic, at least 10% of the affected people with HUS never develop diarrhea. 

Thus, there are secondary complications, and the symptoms can persist for years. Conditions that are often not recognized as related to the acute infection are specific long-term sequelae: atherosclerosis, reactive arthritis, stroke, seizure, blindness, coma, pancreatitis, diabetes mellitus, pleural and pericardial effusions, cholelithiasis, colonic stricture, and cognitive impairment.  As a result of the verocytotoxins produced by the E. coli 0157:H7, there is significant insult to the body.  The verocytotoxins cause damage to numerous organs and tissues, leading to aberrant responses from the immune system, cardiovascular complications, and neurological dysfunction.  Since the E. coli 0157:H7 may remain resident in the body for extended periods of time, as evidenced by continued shedding of the bacteria for weeks after the acute clinical symptoms may seem to have resolved, other complications are common.  People who have been diagnosed with HUS are at a significant risk for life-long renal dysfunction or failure, and neurological problems, ranging from seizures through blindness. 

 This article discusses issues of general interest and does not give any specific legal, medical, or business advice pertaining to any specific circumstances.  Before acting upon any of its information, you should obtain appropriate advice from a lawyer or other qualified professional.

This article may not be duplicated, altered, distributed, saved, incorporated into another document or website, or otherwise modified without the permission of the author, who will be contacted by The TASA Group.

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