E. Coli Outbreak Expands to the Four States

The bacterial outbreak of E. Coli, which seems to be connected to fast-food sandwiches, has caused thirty-seven people to fall seriously ill, and the danger is still expanding.

Escherichia coli bacteria, 3D illustration. E. coli is a Gram-negative rod-shaped motile bacterium covered with flagella
Escherichia coli bacteria, 3D illustration. E. coli is a Gram-negative rod-shaped motile bacterium covered with flagella

Twenty-two of the twenty-six victims interviewed by the Centers for Disease Control had recently eaten romaine lettuce at Wendy’s. “Investigators are working to confirm whether romaine lettuce is the source of this outbreak and whether romaine lettuce used in Wendy’s sandwiches was served or sold at other businesses. Wendy’s is fully cooperating with the investigation,” the CDC said. Cases have been reported in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. 

The CDC hasn’t advised people to avoid Wendy’s as the restaurant has taken measures to contain the outbreak.

Bacterial Infections

Food, especially processed food, swimming pools, and hospitals are the most common sources of bacterial infections. These infections are especially dangerous for people with certain pre-existing medical conditions.

Escherichia coli, more commonly known as E. coli, is highly resistant to heat and other countermeasures that kill most bacteria. Initial infection symptoms include severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea, hemorrhagic colitis, vomiting, and fever. Continued exposure to E. coli can cause gastroenteritis, neonatal meningitis, hemorrhagic colitis, urinary tract infections, and Crohn’s disease.

E. coli also spreads through contaminated water. Traveler’s diarrhea, and E. coli-related illness, infects about 840 million people a year, mostly in developing countries. This condition kills about 340,000 people a year.

Improper chemical cleaner levels in swimming pools often cause bacterial infections as well. A simple test determines if the chemicals in the water are at the correct level. But many swimming pool owners either don’t perform this test or don’t perform it often enough.

On a related note, if the chlorine level is too high, it could cause chemical burns, mostly to the ear, nose, and throat.

Hospital bacterial infections sometimes occur during surgery. If surgical instruments aren’t properly sanitized, usually by superheating them, bacteria could directly enter a person’s bloodstream from a tainted instrument. The resulting infarction spreads quickly and causes extremely serious injuries very quickly.

Once again, on a related note, if surgical instruments are too hot, they could cause serious temperature burns.

Bacterial infections in clinical settings are more common during recovery.

Outbreaks and The Law

Negligence, or a lack of care, usually causes bacterial infections in food, swimming pool water, clinics, or anywhere else. A negligence case in New York has four basic elements:

  • Duty: In the Empire State, most individuals and property owners, including swimming pool owners, have a duty of reasonable care.
  • Breach: Essentially, a breach of duty is a lack of care. In the case of a bacterial outbreak, a single lapse can injure hundreds of people.
  • Cause: A New York personal injury attorney must establish factual and legal causation. A victim/plaintiff must prove the breach substantially caused injury. Contributing factors, like bad weather in a car crash case, usually don’t excuse negligence. Legal cause is foreseeability (possibility) of injury. 
  • Damages: Usually, the victim/plaintiff must sustain a tangible injury. Additionally, the injury must be something that money can compensate for, at least in part. Money damages are usually the only remedy available, since no one can turn back time and stop a bacterial outbreak.

Common defenses in bacterial outbreak claims include comparative fault and assumption of the risk. For example, an insurance company might claim that a victim failed to properly prepare food or knowingly bought food that was possibly tainted.

Damages in a negligence claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, especially in medical negligence claims, because of the higher duty of care.

Injury victims are normally entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik. We do not charge upfront legal fees and only recover a fee when we win your case.