All Points Medical Waste Blog

The E. Coli Outbreak

What you need to know

It’s all over the news and the web, the outbreak of E. Coli that’s causing widespread concern and panic among many people across the United States. Should you be worried? The short answer is yes, because even though they’ve traced the outbreak to romaine lettuce grown in Arizona, experts are still not sure if it’s been contained. As of this writing, one person has died from ingesting the E. Coli infected lettuce and more than 120 people have fallen sick. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself and your family:

What is E. Coli anyway?

We’ve all heard of it, and just hearing it said out loud causes worry and fear, but what exactly is E. Coli? E. Coli is a strain of bacteria that is associated with the intestines of animals, including human beings. In fact, all of us have E. Coli in our guts, but there are strains of it that can cause illness, including the one that produces the Shiga toxin. The latest outbreak is one such strain, and many of those who have ingested it are getting sick, some sick enough to be hospitalized.

What are the symptoms of E. Coli infection?

For most folks, the symptoms begin a few days after ingestion after the bacteria attaches to the walls of the intestines and multiplies, releasing the Shiga toxin. Once this happens, people feel stomach cramps, fever, vomiting and diarrhea. One of the most important factors to know is that many people don’t suffer with symptoms and others only have discomfort for a few days. It’s those that develop hemolytic uremic syndrome that can be at risk for kidney damage—and this has been reported in a number of cases in the latest outbreak.

Who is at risk?

Although anyone can be susceptible to an E. Coli infection, those that are the most at risk for illness are the elderly, the very young and those who have a compromised immune system.

Can you eat romaine lettuce now?

Although some stores will tell you that their supply of romaine is unaffected, it’s still advisable not to eat romaine until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have cleared it. Because the outbreak has affected people in 25 states in the US, the possibility exists that all of the infected lettuce has still not be traced to its origin or that it’s been contained. Restaurants and supermarkets should not be serving or selling romaine, and if they are, it’s a good idea to refrain until it’s known for sure that there is no more of the infected lettuce out there.

How to prevent infection

Beyond abstaining from romaine, it’s a good idea to remember that E. Coli can be present in certain animal products, unpasteurized dairy products and other food items. Environmental areas that have been exposed to the bacteria, including those where cattle graze, can also pose a risk, so thorough hand washing and keeping your kitchen area, dishes and utensils clean can also help.

Health outbreaks in society often cause alarm, but remaining calm and informed is key to reducing risk and illness. Exposure to bacteria and infectious waste can cause people of all ages to suffer with symptoms, serious illness and even death—so knowledge is the best defense.

For more information about medical waste and the proper disposal of items that may pose a risk to the health of others or the community, please reference our blog.

All Points Medical Waste is a family-owned and operated company that provides medical waste disposal services to facilities and organizations throughout Okeechobee, St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach Counties.

Dawn Connelly

Dawn is the vice president of All Points Medical Waste. All Points Medical Waste is a family-owned and operated medical waste disposal and compliance company that has been serving the Treasure Coast, Palm Beaches, and surrounding areas since 1994.
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