Health Department officials are investigating over 100 cases of E. coli poisoning in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have confirmed 58 cases of E. coli in Michigan and 24 cases in Ohio that match the strain in a multi-state outbreak. Several similar E. coli food poisoning cases have been identified in Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Most of these people claim they ate sandwiches topped with lettuce at a Wendy's Restaurant in the week prior to their food poisoning diagnosis.
The illness onset dates range from late July through early August 2022. The sickness and harm have run from mild to very severe, and many victims have required extensive hospitalization and medical care.
While the specific source of the food poisoning has yet to be determined, one possible source is romaine lettuce used to top hamburgers and sandwiches at Wendy's restaurants. Wendy's is cooperating with investigators to determine if the lettuce is, in fact, the source of this illness breakout.
What is E. Coli Poisoning?
E. coli is a bacterium that lives in the digestive tracks of animals and humans. Most varieties are harmless, but some can cause severe illness. Common sources of E. coli include:
- Raw milk or unpasteurized dairy products
- Raw fruits or vegetables, such as lettuce, have come into contact with infected animal feces
Symptoms of E. Coli poisoning are severe. They include painful stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Some people experience high fevers, and many develop life-threatening conditions such as bloodstream infections and urinary tract infections.
E. coli infections often require hospitalization and expensive medical care because the damage from E. coli food poisoning can be extensive.
Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS)
Additionally, ten cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) have been diagnosed and are suspected to also be potentially related to contaminated lettuce at Wendy's restaurants.
HUS is a rare but severe disease that affects the kidneys because it destroys red blood cells, which can then cause kidney failure. The disease is an infrequent complication for a small fraction of those infected with E. coli.
E. coli outbreak cases are being reported in the following counties: Allegan, Branch, Clinton, Genesee, Gratiot, Jackson, Kent, Macomb, Midland, Monroe, Muskegon, Oakland, Ogemaw, Ottawa, Saginaw, Washtenaw, and Wayne and the City of Detroit. Public health departments in those counties are closely monitoring patients while working hard to determine the source of the poisoning.
Minimizing Your E. Coli Risk
In the United States, there have been at least two E. coli outbreaks each year since 2009, according to the CDC. To be considered an outbreak, two or more individuals must become ill through contact with the same contaminated food or beverage.
There are ways to help prevent E. coli infections, such as:
- Thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers
- Thoroughly washing hands before and after preparing or eating food
- Thoroughly wash hands after contact with animals and their living areas
- Washing fruits and vegetables well before consuming
- Cook meats thoroughly
- Be wary of cross-contamination in food preparation areas
- Avoid raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, or juices
- Avoid swallowing water when in lakes, ponds, or swimming pools
E. coli was first recognized by scientists in 1982. Still, the public had little awareness of the bacteria until 1993, when undercooked hamburgers from popular fast food chain Jack-in-the-Box gave E. coli to more than 700 people across multiple states.
This outbreak was the catalyst for the Department of Agriculture to implement new regulations designed to help prevent contaminated meats and poultry from reaching the public.
The largest E. coli outbreak occurred in 2006 from Dole baby spinach. It caused 205 illnesses and three deaths. In 2006, there was a food outbreak at Taco Bell that caused 41 illnesses, and in 2015, 55 people were diagnosed with E. coli from eating at Chipotle restaurants.
E. Coli Poisoning Lawsuits
Food poisoning settlements generally include money payment for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and physical injuries caused by food contamination. Claims for economic losses and damages are usually also demanded in a food poisoning lawsuit. These may include payment of medical bills and expenses, as well as lost wages and income resulting from missed time at work.
If you ate food at a Wendy's Restaurant that contained romaine lettuce in July or August and were diagnosed or hospitalized with E. coli poisoning, you should speak with a food poisoning attorney.
Each case is different. But in 2019, several children became ill after being infected by E.coli at the San Diego County Fair. A food poisoning lawsuit was filed against the operators of the fair on behalf of the children and their families. One case was settled for $3 million after the tragic death of a child, and other settlements totaled $1.3 million.
All of the Wendy's food poisoning claims are just in their initial stages. A few lawsuits have been filed, but dozens more will find their way into courthouses shortly. At this time, there are no reported Wendy's food poisoning settlements.
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