Sprouts Behind Recent E. Coli Outbreak

E coli outbreak in Idaho and Washington likely began with tainted clover sprouts that health officials have tracked

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) An outbreak of harmful E. coli found in contaminated raw clover sprouts is being investigated in the states of Idaho and Washington, where health officials are trying to identify how far the outbreak has spread and how to contain it.

Thus far, seven persons are confirmed as being infected, and it's probable that three others also have been infected by the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, which can cause infected people to have bloody diarrhea and kidney failure. Both conditions are potentially deadly, though no one has died in this current outbreak, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Most of the infected individuals told health officials that they had eaten sandwiches with clover sprouts that they purchased at local eateries. CDC officials say those sprouts were produced by Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, based in Moyles Springs, ID.

Most E. coli are harmless. But the harmful kind can cause serious damage to the kidneys and other organs, though some infected people never get that ill.

"Wash your hands thoroughly to prevent spread of disease."

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is helping to lead the investigation of this E. coli outbreak.

Because the number of medical laboratories equipped with tests for Shiga-toxin E. coli are relatively few in the United States, it can take longer than the optimum amount of time to diagnosis this bacterial infection, according to CDC officials.

What officials have discovered, nevertheless, is that those who became ill from infections in Idaho and Washington likely experienced their first symptoms between May 1, 2014 and May 14, 2014.

On average, two to three weeks pass before a person develops symptoms. So, the number of E. coli-infected individuals may climb. Symptoms of Shiga-toxin E. coli include chills, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea that often is bloody. Infected persons often have no fever.

Those confirmed as infected or who are considered to probably be infected with E. coli are 22 years to 45 years old. Nine of the 10 are women. Five of the 10 were hospitalized. None of the sick people have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which happens when E. coli destroys red blood cells and causes the kidneys to fail. The kidneys help rid the body of various toxins from the blood stream, flushing them out through urine.

Usually, E. coli infection results from eating E. coli-contaminated leafy green vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach and sprouts, or by drinking unpasteurized milk, juices or water containing contaminated sewage.

It also can be spread from animals to humans, either through direct contact or by eating E. coli-tainted meats. It can spread from person-to-person by those who, for example, have E. coli on their hands or other body parts and have come into contact people with loose stools, including those in hospitals, nursing homes and day care centers. Swimming in E. coli-tainted sewage also can spread the infection.

Hand-washing and other acts of good hygiene are key to containing E. coli.

The infected patients bought food at various restaurant locations, including Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, the Pita Pit and Daanen’s Deli.

Review Date: 
May 23, 2014
Last Updated:
May 27, 2014