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E. Coli Poisoning

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Escherichia coli or E. coli is a rod-shaped bacterium that can often be found in the lower intestines. Most strains of E. coli are harmless, but some can result in food poisoning. Victims who are infected with this food-borne illness may suffer severe or violent physical symptoms. In some cases, they may also be left with lifelong health problems. It is important that victims of E. coli poisoning understand their rights.

E. Coli Exposure

You can get exposed to E. coli from different sources of contaminated food and water. It is most commonly found in:

  • Undercooked ground beef: The E. coli bacteria in the intestines of slaughtered animals can make its way to the final product. The bacteria could still remain if the meat is not cooked properly.
  •  Raw vegetables: It is possible for runoff from cattle farms to contaminate fields of fresh produce. Spinach and lettuce are particularly vulnerable to E. coli exposure.
  •  Unpasteurized milk: Unpasteurized milk and milk products could also be a source of E. coli contamination.
  •  Restaurants: When cooks and servers fail to wash their hands properly, they can pass on the bacteria to customers.
  •  Contaminated water: Animal and human feces can pollute ground and surface water. This is why public water systems use ultraviolet light and chlorine to kill E. coli. Despite these efforts, it is still possible to get infected after drinking water or swimming in a pool or lake.

E. Coli Symptoms

Common symptoms include mild diarrhea involving watery discharge to severe, bloody diarrhea, as well as abdominal cramping, nausea and vomiting. If your diarrhea is persistent or bloody, you should seek medical attention right away. It is common for healthy adults to recover on their own within a week. Some young children and older adults, however, can develop a condition called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), which could lead to kidney failure. Young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to E. coli infections.

Determining Liability

Negligent food producers and distributors can be held liable in food poisoning cases. Victims of food poisoning can file a personal injury claim against the manufacturer, retailer, processor or distributor seeking compensation for damages such as medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization costs, pain and suffering and emotional distress.

If you have been sickened by contaminated food, it is important to take the following steps:

  • Isolate the food and preserve it so that it can be tested for contaminants or pathogens.
  • Seek medical attention and treatment right away.
  • Report your illness to your local health agency.
  • Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer who will help you understand your legal rights and options.

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