Philadelphia officials have added more people to the patient list in an E. coli outbreak that is associated with “shared restaurant exposure.”

Earlier this month the Philadelphia Department of Public Health reported the outbreak but did not name a specific restaurant or restaurants. The department continues to decline to provide that information.

“A total of 19 cases were identified in this cluster. The last report was received on Sept. 6, and our investigation into the source continues,” department spokesman James Garrow told Food Safety News.

Outbreak investigations typically involve interviews with patients to find out what they ate and where they ate it in the days before becoming ill.

The first outbreak patient became sick Aug. 30. Health officials previously reported that the age range of the infected people was 14 to 70. The department did not immediately respond to requests regarding updated general demographic information such as age and gender of the victims.

City officials said in early September that the outbreak illnesses involved one of five shiga-toxin E. coli strains.

About E. coli infections
The symptoms of E. coli infection varies for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or even life-threatening symptoms and complications.

Anyone can become sick with an E. coli infection, but infants, children, seniors and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their systems are more fragile, according to the CDC.

About 5 percent to 10 percent of those who are diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor. 

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or die. This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children under 5-years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients. 

People who experience HUS symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately. People with HUS should be hospitalized because it can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage and neurologic problems.

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