A Minnesota toddler is in the hospital with hemolytic uremic syndrome, and seven others have been sickened with E. coli O157:H7. All of these cases have been linked to consumption of products, including raw milk, from the Hartmann Dairy Farm in Gibbon, Minnesota, also referred to as M.O.M.’s. Reports of illness began on May 26, 2010.

E. coli BacteriaSeven of the people sickened, all but one children, had E. coli O157:H7 with the same DNA fingerprint (PFGE). One of the people sickened, an infant living in the same household as one of the earlier five cases, had a confirmed case of E. coli O157:H7, but no stool sample was available for genetic fingerprinting in the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) lab.

The specific strain of E. coli O157:H7 found in the ill patients has also been found in multiple animals and at multiple sites on the Hartmann farm, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.  As of June 11, 2010, 28 environmental and animal samples obtained by the Minnesota Department of Health from the Hartmann farm have now tested positive for the pathogenic bacteria. Twenty-six samples had the same DNA fingerprint as the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7. These additional positive samples include environmental samples from the dairy barn where the cows are milked. The DNA fingerprint is unique among the more than 3,000 isolates of E. coli 0157:H7 tested at the Minnesota Department of Health since 1993. This strain of E. coli O157:H7 has not previously been found in Minnesota.

Furthermore, laboratory tests confirmed that cheese samples collected last week from the farm contained another form of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, demonstrating that an ongoing pathway of contamination existed on the farm.

Victims and their families have a right to pursue money damages for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other expenses and losses. This is the case particularly for the children, even if their parents signed an agreement saying they would not sue. The children have individual rights, and the child with HUS will have medical expenses far into the future, perhaps for the rest of the child’s life. We have handled these kinds of cases and have seen the damage that is done.

From a MDH May, 2010, press release:

The Minnesota Department of Health urges anyone who may have recently purchased milk from the Hartmann Dairy Farm, also known as M.O.M.’s, to discard the product and not consume it. The milk may be labeled organic and consumers may be unaware that the milk has not been pasteurized. In addition, consumers should not eat cheese, ice cream, or other dairy products from the farm, which also may have been made from raw, unpasteurized milk.

Four E. coli O157:H7 cases all have the same “pulsed-field gel electrophoresis” (PFGE) patterns, or DNA fingerprint. Three of the four cases report a link to milk from Hartmann Farm; the fourth case is under investigation. Three of the four people were hospitalized as a result of their illness; one case has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

Minnesota law prohibits most raw milk sales, except for occasional purchases directly at the farm where the milk is produced.

E. coli O157 bacteria produce a toxin that may cause severe diarrhea (often bloody) and stomach cramps. In some cases, the E. coli infection leads to HUS E coli O157, a serious disease in which red blood cells are destroyed, that can cause kidney failure, neurological problems (stroke, coma, seizures), heart problems, and death. Sometimes E. coli infections lead to thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura and the platelets are also destroyed. Infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk for these complications.

Symptoms of an E. coli infection generally appear three to four days after exposure, but can take as long as nine days to appear.

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