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When it comes to food poisoning, we figure once the stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea have calmed that it's pretty much over. Well, it's not. Scientists are just now starting to understand the truth about food poisoning and the tangled web it weaves. The truth is that E. coli and certain other foodborne illnesses (salmonella, shigella, campylobactor) can actually sometimes trigger serious health issues months or even years down the line after the initial bout.
In scientist interviews with the Associated Press, patients described such symptoms as high blood pressure, kidney damage and even full kidney failure10 to 20 years later. The people had either survived a severe E. coli infection as children, arthritis after a bout of salmonella or shigella, or a mysterious paralysis that can attack people who merely suffered mild symptoms of campylobacter.
Heads of advocacy groups have heard further harrowing stories by survivors related to food poisoning, like the woman who survived a severe bout of E. coli at age 8 only to have her colon removed in her 20's. Some people even developed diabetes after food poisoning inflamed their pancreas. In fact, Alyssa Chrobuck of Seattle, WA was a victim herself, at age 5, of the huge Jack-In-The-Box outbreak that 15 years ago made the deadly E. coli strain notorious. Now, at age 20 she suffers from high blood pressure, recurring hospitalizations for colon inflammation, a hiatal hernia, endometriosis and has had her thyroid removed.
Check out these scary statistics and symptoms to food poisoning, as reported by the Associated Press and CNN:
About 1 in 1,000 sufferers of campylobacter, a diarrhea-causing infection spread by raw poultry, develop far more serious Guillain-Barre syndrome a month or so later. Their body attacks their nerves, causing paralysis that usually requires intensive care and a ventilator to breathe. About a third of the nation's Guillain-Barre cases have been linked to previous campylobacter, even if the diarrhea was very mild, and they typically suffer a more severe case than patients who never had food poisoning.
A small number of people develop what's called reactive arthritis six months or longer after a bout of salmonella. It causes joint pain, eye inflammation, sometimes painful urination, and can lead to chronic arthritis. Certain strains of shigella and yersinia bacteria, far more common abroad than in the U.S., trigger this reactive arthritis, too.
Of course, some people question such links between food poisoning and said health problems and that only stems from the fact that once recovered, it's actually difficult to prove that later problems really are food poisoning related and not some unfortunate coincidence.
But, for now, the best evidence comes from the University of Utah, which has long tracked children with E. coli. What did they find? Well, as unfortunate as it may be, they discovered that 10 percent of children that have suffered serious bouts of E. coli later develop a life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) which takes a serious toll on the patients kidneys, possibly causing kidney failure leaving them vulnerable to other various organ failure, as well. But, according to Utah's Dr. Andrew Pavia, the university's pediatric infectious disease chief, his hottest questions remains: HUS patients often suffer pancreatitis. Does that increase risk for diabetes later in life?