As outbreaks of E. coli grow, Wendy’s clients describe food poisoning

Ebon Colbert ordered it as usual on her weekly trip to Wendy’s with her son: a kid’s meal with his regular burger and Dave’s Single, a burger topped with lettuce and tomato, for herself.

What followed was 24 hours of vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea, followed by 12 days in the hospital for treatment. coli bacteria.

In an update Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it has linked 84 coli bacteria Outbreaks are in four states: Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, where Colbert lives. Wendy’s romaine lettuce is suspected as the culprit, as the majority of people who have fallen ill have reported having eaten chain burgers or sandwiches with toppings.

But the investigation is ongoing, and the total of cases is likely to be an underestimate, as it only includes illnesses that started from July 26 to August 9.

At least 38 people have been hospitalized, according to the CDC.

Eight people in Michigan, including Colbert, developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a rare but serious condition that can lead to kidney failure. Colbert said she had to wear a diaper for some time because she was pooping a lot of blood. I lost 14 lbs. Still having trouble eating or using the bathroom.

In a statement, Wendy’s said it is “fully cooperating with public health authorities in their ongoing investigation of regional E. coli outbreaks reported in some Midwestern states.”

“While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet confirmed a specific food as the source of this outbreak, we have taken precautions to phase out and substitute lettuce at some restaurants in that area. The lettuce we use in our salads is different, and it has not been affected by this action,” Wendy said.

Colbert learned on the news that her illness might be related to Wendy’s meal.

“My son loves Wendy,” she said. “I’ll have to explain to him: ‘Hey, we don’t eat there anymore.'”

NBC News spoke with five other people who became ill after eating a crunchy burger or sandwich with lettuce in July or August. All of them said it was one of the worst pains they had ever experienced.

“I thought my insides would pop,” said Hilary Kaufman, who lives in Bowling Green, Ohio. “My stomach looked like I was pregnant – it was so swollen from the inflammation.”

Kaufman went to the emergency room and was sent home with antibiotics and pain medication. She said the pain was worse than giving birth to any of her four children. Her test result was positive coli bacteria last week.

Debbie Rouric, who lives in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, compared her bloating to punching in the stomach. She said she ordered extra lettuce for her burger on August 8 and then got headaches, diarrhea and body aches about 48 hours later. She said she has had intermittent fatigue ever since.

“I battled breast cancer and recovered from it, had a whole year of treatment, radiation, chemotherapy, and the fatigue I have from this is similar,” Rurik said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that “the outbreak may not be limited to states with known diseases.”

Alicia Kickbush, who lives in Pennsylvania, said she experienced diarrhea, vomiting and severe stomach cramps after she ate at Wendy’s at the Las Vegas Airport last week. Although her husband, Bob, reported her illness to the Nevada Department of Health on Saturday, the department told NBC News that it had not received any complaints about coli bacteria in Wendy.

Alicia Kickbush said she ordered Dave’s Single hamburger with a standard topping, including lettuce, and was sick for about 48 hours. Her husband ordered a spicy honey chicken sandwich, which doesn’t come with lettuce, and he didn’t get sick.

“I’m lucky I actually got over it,” she said, “but it was horrible.” “It was unbearable.”

Ohio resident Sarah Buron sued Wendy on Monday, claiming she became sick from a meal she had at a chain store in Bowling Green. She was taken to hospital with coli bacteria For a week after she ate Dave’s Single hamburger, according to the lawsuit.

Colbert also sued Wendy, with the goal of reimbursing the medical expenses of her hospital visit and the loss of her salary from being unemployed for a month. The estimated bill for the hospital visit was $2,000 after insurance.

Kaufman has yet to receive the hospital bill, but she plans to file a lawsuit as well. She said she missed sending her kids to their first day of school because she was at the doctor’s office getting tested coli bacteria.

Why are so many E. coli outbreaks linked to lettuce?

coli bacteria They are bacteria that can contaminate food. People who are very young, elderly, pregnant, or immunocompromised are more likely to suffer serious outcomes.

“I didn’t realize how bad it was coli bacteria It was so I got it. This has some serious consequences for people,” Colbert said, adding that she hopes food suppliers or distributors will find and implement better ways to keep consumers safe.

coli bacteria Darren Dettweiler, professor of food regulation policy at Northeastern University, said outbreaks often come from lettuce for a variety of reasons.

First, lettuce is consumed raw, so there is no heat to kill the bacteria.

“Washing it a little bit can kill some of it, but you can never wash it enough to kill it all,” Dettweiler said.

Most coli bacteria Disease outbreaks too run in the fallWhen lettuce production moves from California’s Central Coast to Yuma Valley in Arizona and Imperial Valley in California, Dettweiler said. Scientists are unsure whether environmental factors, such as water supplies, or other factors are responsible.

If the water supply is responsible, that may explain why coli bacteria Dettweiler said outbreaks are fairly consistent year after year.

In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration delayed a request that farms test their untreated groundwater; Then recently Suggest an extension of the deadline Until January 2023 for large farms, with an additional year or two for small or very small farms.

Dettweiler said Wendy’s lettuce can come from a single farm that doesn’t distribute to other restaurants or grocery stores, given it’s a special romaine-iceberg hybrid. The CDC also He said there is no evidence Lettuce is sold elsewhere.

Dettweiler said that foodborne pathogens can be found anywhere, so there is little point in avoiding certain foods.

“If you avoid eating everything suspected of causing foodborne illness, there is nothing left to eat,” he said.

Detwiler’s son himself died at 16 months in 1993 coli bacteria Outbreak related to ground beef from Jack in the Box. He said that his son did not eat any food from the restaurant chain, but he communicated with another child he had coli bacteria in day care.

“Businesses in many cases will rebound,” Dettweiler said. “Consumers, entire families will not be able to rebound.”

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