Attorney Fred Pritzker was retained by a woman who ate lettuce contaminated with E. coli O145 bacteria and then developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS is a life-threatening illness that can cause kidney failure, central nervous system damage, heart problems, pancreatitis, and other serious medical conditions.
The client, a student at Daemen College in Amherst, New York, suffered three separate hospitalizations and was seriously set back in the course of study she was pursuing.
By the time the outbreak was over, the CDC had confirmed 26 cases of E. coli O145 food poisoning and determined there were also 7 probable cases in 5 states: MI (11 confirmed and 2 probable), NY (5 confirmed and 2 probable), OH (8 confirmed and 3 probable), PA (1 confirmed), and TN (1 confirmed). Twelve of these people were hospitalized, and 3 of them developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, including our client.
Our client was one of several people sickened. Several of the outbreak victims were students at the following schools:
Daemen College (Amherst, New York), Roy C. Ketcham High School (Wappingers Falls, New York), John Jay High School (Wappingers Falls, NY), Wappingers Junior High School (Wappingers Falls, NY), Van Wyck Middle School (Wappingers Falls, NY), University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan), Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio).
Confirmed cases are persons with:
- Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O145 infection, or Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infection with O Group pending, AND
- an illness onset on or after March 1, 2010, AND
- a DNA fingerprint matching the outbreak strain; AND
- an epidemiologic link to the outbreak.
Probable cases are persons with a strong epidemiologic link to the outbreak and:
- Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O145 infection with an illness onset on or after March 1, 2010 regardless of DNA fingerprint pattern, AND/OR
- hemolytic uremic syndrome; AND/OR
- a laboratory specimen with evidence of Shiga toxin 2 [stx2] or Shiga toxin, but toxin type is unknown or pending.
The evidence gathered in the investigation pointed to shredded romaine lettuce from one processing facility as the source of the outbreak. The “smoking gun” was finding the outbreak strain of E. coli O145 in an unopened package of shredded romaine lettuce a school had purchased from a processing facility.