A few years ago, I was in Portland investigating an E. coli outbreak at a local restaurant. By happenstance, I met one of the recovering victims. He was a strapping man, about 70 years old, with huge hands and a hearty laugh.
He had been both a lumberjack and a fisherman and he told me stories from the time when Portland still was a blue-collar working class town. After a couple of hours, I had to leave. I remember feeling good that this salt of the earth guy had survived his bout with E. coli.
Then about a year later, I learned he was dead. Something else got him after E. coli first knocked him down. I was stunned because the memory of our time together was so fresh.
Since then I’ve learned from medical experts doing scientific research on these events that it’s pretty common for elderly victims of foodborne illness to fight back only to lose the big battle of life to something else. According to the Denver Post, we’ve seen this again as two Colorado men who were sickened in the deadly listeria outbreak of 2011, caused by local cantaloupe, have died in recent days.
Herb Stevens, 86, and Charles Palmer, 70, can be added to the death toll for the cantaloupe-caused listeria outbreak that officially killed 33 people, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. One of the deadliest foodborne illness outbreaks in U.S. history, the listeria contamination was traced to cantaloupe grown in southeast Colorado near the Kansas border.
Stevens, who lived in the Denver suburb of Littleton, is said to have never really rebounded after the listeria-contaminated cantaloupe made him ill. After eating the cut-up cantaloupe, he came down with tremors, chills, and was too weak to stand. He was hospitalized for months.
Palmer, a retired Marine Corps master sergeant, never really had any health issues before he ate the bad cantaloupe.
Afterwards, doctors treating him for listeria discovered cancer. His symptoms began with a severe headache and stiff neck, and worsened to the point his eyes were rolling back and he was not responding to his wife, who called 911.
Master Sergeant Palmer wrote that he was worried about the burden his deterioration was putting on his wife and two sons. Thinking of others seems to be what comes naturally to Marines like Palmer.
My handful of examples does not prove anything, but I am pretty certain that elderly victims of foodborne illnesses, even those who initially recover, end up paying a price in either a diminished quality of life or reduced life span period. Good enough reason, I think, for the elderly to do everything they can to steer clear of foodborne illnesses by taking every precaution possible.
More research into how the elderly get knocked down again after recovery from food borne illnesses would be helpful in understanding what they really have to go through.
Brookover, Best in Cyclospora Reporting, and the Horse Hearing
Last week in both this column and in personal emails, I asked the owners of Brookover Feed Lots Inc. to drop the simple trespass charges against the National Geographic team that was on assignment in Kansas. Neither Earl Brookover, Jr., managing partner, nor Ty Brookover, manager of operations, responded to my request.
I honestly did not think the Brookovers would be that small minded. Good news is National Geographic is providing the team’s defense.
In all reporting of the ongoing Cyclospora outbreak, the stand out job was done July 25 by our own James Andrews with Cyclospora Outbreak Highlights Differing Epidemiology Philosophies. In it Andrews explores why it is taking so long for officials to name the food source that this parasite is using to get around.
On this coming Friday, Aug. 2, the federal court for New Mexico is going to be filled with lawyers as it seems the number of parties in Front Range Equine Rescue v. Vilsack continues to grow.
Front Range Equine Rescue, backed by animal advocacy groups like the Humane Society of America, are asking the federal court for a preliminary injunction to stop USDA from inspecting horsemeat produced at packing plants that are set to open in New Mexico and Iowa. That is why Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is the defendant in the civil action.
To get a preliminary injunction, plaintiffs need to show they have a high likelihood of prevailing once the issue goes to trial.
It might not be that simple for a federal judge to predict how this is going to end up. Take, for example, the entry of the Yakama Nation into the case. The 1.3 million acre Yakama reservation in Washington State “has suffered substantial damages due to the overpopulation of feral horses,” says attorney John Dillard.
“In the Yakama’s case, their grazing lands have a carrying capacity for approximately 1000 feral horses. At this time, their feral horse population exceeds 12,000, and is doubling every four years, “Dillard adds. “The lack of domestic horse slaughter has left the Yakama Nation without an economically viable outlet for managing the horse population on their reservation.”
The tribe’s wildlife biologist has prepared a declaration laying out the “many unintended consequences the domestic horse slaughter ban has wreaked upon the Yakama Nation.” And attorney Dillard will be there from Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC in Washington D.C. to represent the Yakama Nation’s substantial interest in how this case comes out.
This is a lengthy way of saying; the horse slaughter issue is getting a whole lot more complicated. It should be a fascinating hearing on Friday.© Food Safety News