Several times per year I encounter someone who tells me that they suffered food poisoning because of a meal that they ate at a particular restaurant. Usually the person has suffered through some very real physical discomfort, but has suffered at home. This is good and bad. The good is that while you may have been miserable for a period of time, you were not sick enough to require hospitalization. The bad news is that you likely do not have a case. The reason you do not have a case is because you were not diagnosed with food poisoning caused by a specific pathogen. When pursuing a case for food poisoning in Florida, you must show that you were a victim of food poisoning that was caused by the defendant.
Common Food Poisoning Pathogens
Not all food poisoning cases are caused by the same pathogen. Pathogens are bacterium, viruses, or other microorganisms that can cause disease or in this case food poisoning. The most common pathogens which can cause food borne illnesses include:
1. Norovirus – Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that can be transmitted in food, liquids and by personal contact. Most cases occur in the spring and early summer. Each year, an estimated 20 million people are infected. Since it is related to the flu, its symptoms are very similar and include fever, body aches, stomachaches nausea and diarrhea. The incubation period for norovirus is 12-48 hours. The treatment for norovirus can require hospitalization. In severe cases, norovirus can cause kidney failure, seizures, hypovolemic shock and death;
2. Salmonella – Salmonella is a bacteria that can become a cause of food borne illness. It is usually caused by improper and unhygienic food handling practices. The symptoms usually develop within 12 to 72 hours and include, diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. Usually there are no long term effects, however, some patients develop Reiter’s Syndrome which can lead to chronic arthritis;
3. Clostridium perfringens – C. perfingens is a common, but relatively benign type of food poisoning. Its symptoms include stomach cramps and diarrhea and manifest themselves within 24 hours of consumption of the contaminated food. The disease usually runs its course within 24 hours and very rarely has any further complications;
4. Campylobacter – Campylobacter is the name of a bacteria commonly found in raw chicken. It is present in an estimated 47% of all chicken sold in the United States. It is not a very hardy bacterium and can be destroyed by thorough cooking and air. The symptoms usually manifest themselves 1-10 days after consumption and include muscle pain, fever and headaches, diarrhea (bloody stool is not uncommon), nausea and stomach pain and/or cramping. Though most patients usually make a full recovery within a week, Campylobacteriosis can have serious and long term effects including meningitis, arthritis and Gullain-Barré syndrome;
5. Shigella – Shigella is a bacterium that can cause shigellosis which develops in 1 to 7 days following contact with contaminated food or persons. Shigella is associated with poor hygienic practices either in the kitchen or at the source of the food product. Sprouts are a common food source of Shigella. The symptoms are painful and include sudden stomach pain, fevers, rectal pain, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Shigella infections develop into a potentially life threatening condition known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) which can cause kidney failure, brain damage and death;
6. Vibrio – Vibrio is a bacterium that is primarily found in raw oysters. The symptoms associated with ingestion of vibrio include fever, diarrhea, stomach pain vomiting. There are different strains of vibrio which can cause different long term effects, but generally speaking people with other diseases, conditions or compromised immune systems are a greater risk to suffer debilitating long term complications;
7. Hepatitis A – Hepatitis A is a viral infection that is spread by fecal to oral transmission. It is often transmitted by contaminated food which has been improperly handled. It is commonly associated with salads, deli sandwiches, water, fruit, vegetables and cold drinks. It effects the liver and in severe cases can require hospitalization to treat inflammation of the liver and decreased liver function;
8. Listeria monocytogenes– ; Listeria is a remarkably hardy bacterium that is found in a range of foods including raw milk, shellfish, sprouts, smoked seafood and soft cheeses. and
9. E.coli – E.coli is a bacterial infections most commonly associated with ground beef and petting zoos. The symptoms include cramps, diarrhea (bloody stool is not uncommon), fever and nausea. About 5-10% of patients diagnosed with E.coli infections develop into a potentially life threatening condition known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) which can cause kidney failure, brain damage and death. The symptoms usually develop within 3-4 days after exposure, but have occurred anywhere between 1 day and 10days following exposure.
Determine the Pathogen That Caused Your Illness
If you believe that you have been made ill by a food borne pathogen, seek medical care. Typically, the doctor might give you a generic diagnosis of food poisoning. It is important that you request that the doctor conduct further testing to determine the specific pathogen which has made you ill. As I described above, “food poisoning” describes a wide variety of illnesses with an ever broader range of incubation periods. It is important to determine where you acquired the pathogen that ultimately caused your food poisoning. In order to successfully pursue a food poisoning case, you must be able to trace your illness back to its source.
Contact Jones Law Group
Have you or a loved one been the victim of food poisoning? Contact an experienced St. Petersburg personal injury law firm today. When you contact our office we will immediately set an appointment where you will meet your attorney and be provided with his/her personal contact information. If you do not have transportation or you cannot drive, your attorney will travel to meet you and discuss your case with you.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of eating contaminated food, you should immediately call an experienced personal injury attorney in St. Petersburg at Jones Law Group at (727) 571-1333 during regular business hours or (727) 753-8657 on weekends or after regular business hours. We will evaluate your case for free and you will never pay us a dime unless we recover compensation for your injuries.
Jones Law Group
5622 Central Avenue
St. Pete, FL 33707