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Illinois E. coli poisoning attorneyThere are a wide variety of foodborne illnesses that affect people in the United States. Typically, food poisoning occurs because harmful bacteria, viruses, or toxins are present in foods that are made available to consumers, including items sold at grocery stores, dishes served at restaurants, and food products sold or provided at other locations. E. coli is one of the most common foodborne pathogens. It is estimated that 265,000 people in the U.S. are infected with this bacteria every year, and these infections result in 3,600 hospitalizations and 30 deaths.

Shiga Toxin-Producing E. Coli

The most dangerous strains of E. coli produce a substance known as a Shiga toxin, which can cause serious harm to the human body. Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) is often present in the intestines of livestock and other animals, and it may be spread to crops or other plants by these animals. It can also infect food products during the process of packaging, shipping, or preparation.

People who contract an E. coli infection may experience symptoms that involve intestinal distress, including stomach pain and cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Victims may experience a low fever, and in many cases, the illness will run its course within five to seven days. In more serious cases, symptoms can involve severe pain and bloody stool. Children under the age of five, elderly people over the age of 65, and those who have compromised immune systems due to diseases such as HIV or cancer treatments are more likely to experience severe symptoms, and in some cases, their condition may be life-threatening.

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Chicago food poisoning lawyersThis past year, illness has taken on a new meaning altogether. The wide range of COVID-19 symptoms can leave you thinking that any sense of sickness can be attributed to the virus. With symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, it may be difficult to decipher if your symptoms are a result of COVID-19, the “stomach flu,” or a case of food poisoning. For many, COVID-19 poses a serious risk to themselves or their elderly loved ones, which is why it is critical to know why you are experiencing your symptoms and if your condition is contagious. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is always advisable to seek out proper testing to rule out COVID-19, but there is no definitive test for the stomach flu or food poisoning. Luckily, there are a few differences that can help you determine what the real driver of your symptoms is.

Symptom Differences

While the stomach flu and food poisoning share the symptoms of stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, there is one key difference between the two: the length of the symptoms. The stomach flu is a quick illness and its symptoms only last one to two days, but food poisoning symptoms can last for several days. Those who have the stomach flu are contagious for one to five days, with symptoms appearing for 24 to 48 hours. Food poisoning, though, has symptoms that linger for days on end. The stomach flu is also much more common in the fall and winter months, whereas food poisoning can happen any time of the year.

The Causes

Another way that you can attempt to narrow down what you have is by looking back at your interactions over the past few days. The stomach flu is transmitted from person to person, so if you have a friend or family member who is also feeling under the weather, they may have passed it on to you. If, however, you went out to eat with this person and you both got sick simultaneously, food poisoning may be the culprit. Food poisoning is caused by bacteria in food, typically undercooked meat or improperly washed vegetables. Thus, the meal that you had out last night may have been contaminated and led to your upset stomach. 

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Chicago food poisoning attorneyYou have likely had the experience of eating a meal that tasted great at a restaurant, but quickly turned to days filled with a sick stomach. When you go out to eat, you expect to have a safe and healthy experience along with tasting great food. Unfortunately, eating at a restaurant can sometimes result in food poisoning. In fact, approximately 48 million cases of food poisoning occur each year. 

Depending on how the food was prepared and whether or not the restaurant’s cooking surfaces were properly sanitized, certain germs that are consumed can lead to food poisoning. This illness can range from mild to severe depending on the germs that you ingested and the way that your body reacts to them. 

If you have experienced any of the following symptoms after consuming contaminated food, you may have been a victim of food poisoning, and you may be able to take legal action:

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Differentiating Between Food Poisoning and a Stomach VirusIf you are experiencing sudden stomach pain, nausea and/or diarrhea, there are generally two possible causes: food poisoning or stomach flu. Both of their symptoms are similar enough that it is difficult for you to tell the difference. However, the difference between food poisoning and stomach flu can determine whether someone may be liable for your medical expenses and suffering. Illinois has strict liability for food poisoning cases while catching a stomach virus usually falls out of the realm of liability. This is one reason why you should see a doctor, who can diagnose the cause of your sickness.

Catching the Stomach Flu vs. Contracting Food Poisoning

The “stomach flu” is not actually a strain of influenza but a gastrointestinal virus that inflames your digestive system. The virus is passed person-to-person by coming in contact with an infected person or surfaces they have contaminated. You can catch a stomach virus if an infected person is preparing your food, but it is more common to catch it from the people you interact with.

By contrast, you contract food poisoning strictly from ingesting food that contains bacteria or parasites. Because you know that unsafe food was the cause of your illness, it is easier to figure out which food was the likely source of the bacteria. Human negligence in storing or preparing food is often to blame for the contamination.

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