E. coli infections happen when certain Escherichia coli bacteria get into the front end of your digestive system. When this happens, you can suffer from the symptoms of an E. coli infection. While most healthy adults recover on their own accord, people with compromised immune systems – like many of the people who are in the hospital – can struggle to beat an E. coli infection.
Preventing E. coli infections from spreading is not very difficult, often involving basic care in the kitchen and keeping a standard water supply from getting contaminated. Nevertheless, hospitals in Philadelphia can still struggle to keep their patients safe from infection.
If you or a loved one acquired an E. coli infection in a Philadelphia hospital, you may be entitled to compensation because it was not your fault. The medical malpractice and personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can help you pursue the compensation you deserve to receive.
E. Coli Infections
E. coli is a kind of bacteria that is often found in your lower intestine. There are several strains of E. coli, most of which are not just harmless, but actually beneficial to humans. They help digest food and keep potentially dangerous bacteria at bay in the intestinal tract.
However, there are several strains of E. coli that are harmful. One of these dangerous species of E. coli is O157:H7 – often referred to simply as O157 – which produces Shiga toxins that can attack the intestinal tract. This toxin can damage the inner lining of your small intestine, producing serious symptoms that can become life-threatening if not kept in check.
E. coli can become dangerous and can lead to an infection if it gets transmitted along the fecal-to-oral route: Food or liquid has to get contaminated with feces containing E. coli, and then you have to ingest it. Once you have E. coli, there is no cure – treatment consists of keeping you hydrated while you eject the infection through vomiting and diarrhea.
Causes of E. Coli
E. coli infections are transmitted along the so-called fecal-oral route. This means you can contract an E. coli infection by eating food or drinking liquids that have been contaminated with feces.
Feces are frequently contaminated with E. coli because the bacteria is naturally-occurring in the intestinal tracts of humans and other warm-blooded animals. Food that has been contaminated with fecal matter, though, does not automatically infect people who eat it – there are ways to treat contaminated food in the ordinary course of preparing a meal.
For vegetables that have gotten contaminated with E. coli and are carrying the bacteria, a thorough washing can eliminate most of the E. coli and reduce the risks of getting an infection.
For meat that has been contaminated, cooking the meat until it has an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit can kill all of the E. coli bacteria inside.
These are normal kitchen preparatory techniques. Or at least, they should be. Some restaurants – including cafeterias in hospitals, fail to take these basic food safety precautions. When customers or patients eat the food that is still contaminated with E. coli because it was not treated properly in the kitchen, they can get sick.
Risk Factors for E. Coli
While everyone is at risk of coming across food that has been contaminated with E. coli, there are some people who are more likely to get infected or who will have a harder time dealing with the symptoms of serious infection:
- People with compromised immune systems
- The elderly
- Anyone with lowered stomach acid levels, often from taking acid reflux medication
- People who eat undercooked meat
- Anyone who drinks unpasteurized milk
In the developing world, E. coli infections often come from water sources that have been contaminated with feces, often from farm animals. However, the water treatment system in the U.S. has largely eliminated this risk.
Symptoms of an E. Coli Infection
E. coli wreaks havoc on a victim's digestive system, causing the following symptoms:
- Diarrhea, including bloody diarrhea
- Stomach cramps and pain
These symptoms often begin several days after the E. coli infection happened, making it more difficult to pinpoint the source of the contamination.
For healthy adults who have a strong immune system, E. coli infections can take around a week to pass through your system. For people with compromised immune systems or who are fighting other medical issues – like most are in the hospital – E. coli infections can be life-threatening because of how badly they dehydrate victims.
Unfortunately, without a vaccine or drug to take to treat E. coli, doctors can only monitor patients until the infection passes, making sure they take enough fluids to avoid getting dehydrated.
How You Can Get E. Coli in a Philadelphia Hospital
You can get infected with E. coli if hospital staff members – particularly those working in the kitchen or cafeteria – do not take food preparation seriously and fail to eliminate E. coli bacteria from food that gets served to patients.
If this happens and you get symptoms that you think are the sign of an E. coli infection, you may want to get a diagnosis from an independent doctor or your family physician. Getting outside of the hospital for the diagnosis can be important because hospital doctors may want to try covering up what happened out of fear of facing a malpractice lawsuit.
If you do have E. coli, talking to a lawyer can be an important next step. There is no reason for a hospital to take such poor care in their food services, and there was little that you could have done to avoid getting sick. Getting compensated for your experience and the resulting medical bills can be especially important when the E. coli symptoms that you suffered were severe. They could have extended your hospital stay by weeks, and caused other medical complications, as well.
The personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can help you recover the compensation that you deserve. Contact them online to get started on your case today.