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F.ood & H.ealth : B.iological A.gents Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00

FDA: Don't eat that spinach -update
Sep 15, 2006, 16:09

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E. coli outbreak associated with consumption of contaminated bagged fresh spinach has involved ten states including Wisconsin, Utah, Oregon, Indiana, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Connecticut, Ohio and Kentucky, the health officials reported Friday.

More than 50 cases of E. coli illness have been reported so far. And at least one death resulted from the E coli outbreak was reported in Wisconsin which has been hit hardest by the outbreak.

The Food and Drug Administration issued an alert Thursday Sept. 14 to advise consumers not to eat bagged fresh spinach which may be the cause of the E. coli outbreak as epidemiological evidence suggests.

The FDA did not have any idea exactly what brand of bagged fresh spinach is the culprit. The federal agency is currently involved in the investigation of the E. coli outbreak.

E. coli O157:H7, a virulent strain of E. coli bacteria, can cause diarrhea often with blood in some cases, the young children under age 5 and the elderly are at high risk of E coli illness. In rare cases, can E coli illness result in death.

E. coli illness hits 73,000 Americans, causing 61 deaths annually. Eating contaminated produce such sprouts, lettuce and spinach can cause illness.

E. Coli: What you need to know?

What is E. coli?

E. coli, known as Escherichia coli, is bacteria found naturally in the intestines of humans and animals.

What is E. coli O157:H7?

E. coli O157:H7 is an enterovirulent strain of E. coli that causes gastroenteritis. There are four classes of enterovirulent E. coli that can cause human illness in a few mechanisms.

Are all E. coli strains harmful to humans?

Most strains of E. coli are not harmful. They harbor in the human intestines suppressing the growth of harmful bacterial species and synthesizing appreciable amounts of vitamins. Only a minority of E. coli strains cause human illness.

How does E. coli O157:H7 cause illness?

E. coli serotype O157:H7 is a rare variety of E. coli that produces large quantities of one or more related, potent toxins that cause severe damage to the lining of the intestine.

What are the clinical symptoms associated with E. coli illness?

Severe cramping or abdominal pain and diarrhea often with blood are two major symptoms associated with E. coli illness. Vomiting and low grade fever occurs occasionally. The illness can last as long as 8 days.

How many E coli are needed to cause illness?

The E. coli O157:H7 is highly virulent, and as low as 10 organisms may be enough to cause illness.

What foods are associated with E coli illness?

Clean foods are not supposed to be the source of the E. coli illness. Undercooked or raw hamburger (ground beef) has been implicated in many of the documented outbreaks, however E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks have implicated alfalfa sprouts, unpasteurized fruit juices, dry-cured salami, lettuce, game meat, and cheese curds. Raw milk was the vehicle in a school outbreak in Canada.

Who are at the highest risk of E. coli illness?

The young children and the elderly are at high risk of E. coli infection. The severe illness is known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), characterized by kidney failure and hemolytic anemia. In young children, less than 15 percent of hemorrhagic colitis resulting from E. coli infection may develop HUS, which can lead to permanent loss of kidney function. In the elderly, HUS plus other two symptoms, fever and neurologic sumptoms, known as thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, can have a mortality rate in the elderly as high as 50 percent.

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