Where Does E. Coli Come From?

E. coli (Escherichia coli) is an enteric bacterium, which means that it occurs naturally in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, including reptiles.

Most commonly, E. coli infection in humans stems from eating foods contaminated with animal feces. The major source for human E. coli infections is cattle, but toxic E. coli live in the guts of all other ruminant animals, as well, including elk, deer, goats, and sheep. These animals generally are not sickened by the E. coli that cause human illness.

Sometimes the point of contact with the bacteria is as obvious as working with cows at a dairy, or changing a diaper, but sometimes contact is easy to overlook, like eating a hamburger cooked just a little bit too rare.

So, almost everyone has some risk of infection with E. coli. Although the large majority of cases involve swallowing something contaminated (whether it be store-bought food, restaurant food, lake water, or non-pasteurized milk, cheese, or cider), infections have also occurred from touch contact with animals at petting zoos and fairs.

Around 20 percent of E. coli infections become part of a recognized outbreak, for which public-health officials have set methods toward identifying a source. Any person or company who is determined to have been materially responsible for the transmission of infectious bacteria is liable for damages.

An experienced Oregon E. coli attorney will ask you “Where did you eat prepared food in the days before you became ill?” When the client provides a full list of such locations, that move represents a good starting place for an investigation.

How Do You Find and Prove the Source of the E. Coli Food Poisoning?

In a food poisoning case, proving the source of the contamination is of primary importance.   Exposing the source frequently teams up plaintiff’s attorneys and public-health officials from all levels – counties, state agencies, and the federal Centers for Disease Control. This team overall, can gather considerable evidence in this area, as follows: 

  1. In a laboratory, scientists can sort molecules in an infected specimen to isolate the singular genetic type of E. coli that a person is infected with. 
  2. Through a process known as pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), scientists create an electronic field capable of causing clumps of DNA molecules from a bacteria to move and break apart.  For each bacterial strain, a particular patterning of individuated DNA molecules emerges from this process.
  3. This resulting pattern of DNA molecules is unique.  It is a genetic identity stamp for a specific E. coli strain.  As a result, this unique pattern can be recognized and matched up with test results from other nearby victims of E. coli poisoning.  When such matches are found, it can be observed that a cluster – or outbreak – of poisonings from a particular E. coli strain has occurred in a geographical area.

A difficulty is posed when other people don’t emerge in your geographical area with food-poisoning complaints.  This kind of case requires more extensive investigation by the attorney. It is necessary to rely more heavily on the client’s record of what she ate, when and where she ate it, and how it was prepared.  This kind of full list of potential sources of infection is a good starting place for an investigation.  

Please contact our attorneys at 877-928-9147 with any questions you have about your E. coli poisoning case. We service across the state of Oregon and provide free consultations. Contact us today!

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