More People Ill
in Growing Michigan
Lettuce E. coli Outbreak
Published: Tuesday, September 30th, 2008
Source of Article:http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/3921
The E. coli
outbreak linked to a Michigan
lettuce distributor has now sickened 30 people in the mid- and southeast
regions of that state, according to Michigan
health officials. Four new cases have been reported since late last week
across three counties. In all, about eight counties are involved.
Meanwhile, we just reported that the Michigan
Department of Community Health announced that bagged lettuce from Detroit-based
produce distributor Aunt Mid’s Produce Company, is
the probable source of the outbreak that seems to have originated in that
state. In addition to those ill in Michigan,
this outbreak has sickened several others in New York,
“That pretty much nailed the fact that it was a national distributor,” Michigan
State University Physician Beth Alexander said regarding the related cases
emerging in other states. “There can be many distributors of one farm. If
you trace it back to where the product is produced they might sell to several
distributors.” Aunt Mid’s released a statement
Friday saying, “(Aunt Mid’s) has already voluntarily
initiated testing procedures by an independent laboratory. In the
meantime, Aunt Mid’s is voluntarily suspending any
processing and sale of its iceberg lettuce product line…. I don’t think
there’s much question about it being lettuce,” Alexander said. “Fresh produce
and ground beef are the two most common sources.”
The state connected lettuce supplies from MSU, the
Lenawee County Jail, and a restaurant in Illinois,
said James McCurtis, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Community Health.
“So far, it points to Aunt Mid’s,” he said. “As we
progress, there might be other vendors.” The Associate Press reports that
at least five Illinois residents were
hospitalized after contracting the bacteria between late August and
mid-September, with a sixth Illinois
resident also reported infected. An Aunt Mid’s
company statement says Aunt Mid’s has begun testing
of its processing facility and initial results show no contamination, according
to the AP.
E. coli are a group of bacteria found in animal
intestines and feces. Some strains are necessary for digestion; some are
harmful, deadly, and toxin-producing and part of a group of E. coli called Verocytotoxigenic E. coli, or VTECs.
Of particular concern is the virulent, sometimes deadly E. coli O157:H7 strain
that is part of this group and that is generally found to be the culprit in E.
coli-related food-borne illness outbreak. Strain O157:H7 has been
confirmed to be to blame in this outbreak. E. coli may cause fatal blood
poisoning, cystitis, deadly septicemia, and death. In the US, E. coli is
the leading cause of food-borne illness, sickening about 73,000 and killing 61;
last year, over 22 million pounds of beef and vegetables were recalled due to
E. coli outbreaks.
There is growing concern in the scientific
community—not just because of the seeming prevalence of all manner of foodborne illnesses—but because instances of drug resistant
E. coli are being reported world-wide and are similar in path to a mutated
staph called MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus
aureus that, when not treated early, is resistant to
all but the one antibiotic of last resort.