Habaneros E. coli Outbreak LawsuitsOn Friday, August 29, 2003, staff in the Communicable Disease (CD) section at the St. Clair County Health Department (SCCHD) received a telephone call from a Sangamon County (Illinois) resident, who reported that he, his roommate and fiancé, and a friend had recently traveled to the St. Clair area. All three were now experiencing bloody diarrhea and had gone to emergency rooms in their respective hometowns for treatment. Laboratory results were pending. CD staff notified the SCCHD Environmental Health section.
On Tuesday, September 2, the SCCHD was notified that E. coli O157:H7 had been detected in the caller’s stool specimen. At the same time the SCCHD began receiving other reports of diarrheal illness in patients seen by local physicians. Preliminary interviews of ill persons revealed that all had eaten at the Habaneros restaurant in the St. Clair Square mall just prior to the onset of diarrhea. A foodborne outbreak investigation was conducted.
In total 64 persons, including seven employees, who had eaten at Habaneros between August 15, 2003 and September 5, 2003, were interviewed. Thirty (47%) reported having diarrheal symptoms; ten sought medical care.
Five individuals were laboratory-confirmed with E. coli O157:H7. All five ate at Habaneros on either August 23 or August 24. Pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis of the five isolates obtained from culture confirmed patients revealed that all five had an indistinguishable PFGE pattern, indicating that they were infected with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7.
By September 5, the number of confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 had increased to five Habaneros patrons. A sixth person, who had eaten at Habaneros with friends but did not have a stool sample tested, was considered to be a probable case of E. coli O157:H7. The restaurant agreed to voluntarily cease operations while the foodborne outbreak investigation was underway.
Marler Clark's E. coli lawyers represented five individuals who became ill with infection in E. coli litigation against Habaneros. Four of the cases were filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court, but all were resolved in August, 2004 without going to trial.
You can read more about the Habaneros E. coli outbreak on the Marler Clark-sponsored site about E. coli.