Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) is a serious disease that affects the kidneys and blood clotting system. It usually occurs after a person has had a diarrheal illness caused by a toxin-producing bacterium. Most cases of HUS occur as a rare complication of infection with the bacterium E. coli O157:H7. If you or a loved one is suffering from HUS, speak with an experienced Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome attorney about your legal options for compensation.
E. coli infections occur after eating contaminated food, such as undercooked meat, some produce, drinking unpasteurized dairy products or juices, or being in contact with cattle and other farm animals or with a person who has the infection.
Who Gets HUS?
Anyone can get HUS, but it is more common in children than adults. Particularly children under the age of five. HUS is the leading cause of acute kidney failure in children, and about 200 to 300 cases are reported in the U.S. each year.
An infection with the bacterium E. coli (STEC) strain O157:H7 is the cause of more than 90% of HUS cases in children. Other strains may also cause STEC but rarely lead to HUS.
Children recover more easily than adults with the disease. More than 85 percent of patients with the most common form of HUS recover complete kidney function. However, even with full recovery, high blood pressure or other kidney problems can affect patients in the future.
Age and Region Distribution
Most HUS cases occur in children between the ages of 1-10 years. Approximately one to three cases occur for every 100 000 children in this age group, and in most cases, it is self-limited. However, the age characteristics differ between regions.
In Europe and North America, the highest incidence of diarrhea-associated HUS was in children between one and five year age group. An Argentinian study showed that very young children between six months to four years old were most affected.
HUS cases often peak in warm seasons, between June and September, and colder regions have a higher incidence rate compared to warmer climates. The parts of the world that most commonly associate HUS with E. coli serotype O157:H7 are North America, Japan, Western Europe, South America, and Africa.
Other strains of E. coli have also caused large outbreaks of HUS, such as E. coli O104:H4, O26:H11/H-, O157:H-, and O145: 28/H-, and in rare cases, O103/H2/H-and O111/H8/H are involved.
In 2011, the strain O104:H4 was linked to an outbreak in Europe, causing bloody diarrhea in 4320 people, HUS in 850 people, and 82 people lost their lives. In Australia, large and virulent outbreaks have been caused by O26 H11 H- which produces both Shiga 1 and 2 toxins.
How Can HUS Be Prevented?
The key to preventing HUS is preventing infection by bacteria, especially E. coli O157:H7. The following measures can be taken to help avoid an E. coli infection:
- Never eat rare or undercooked ground beef.
- Cook ground beef to an internal temperature of 160°F.
- Keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods.
- Wash hands, counters, utensils, and plates after contact with raw meat.
- Always refrigerate meat products.
- Never leave raw meats at room temperature.
- Do not drink milk, milk products, fruit juices, or ciders that have not been pasteurized.
- Always wash raw fruits or vegetables before eating.
- Always carefully wash your hands before and after preparing foods.
- Make sure children wash their hands carefully, especially after using the toilet or handling or touching animals, especially farm animals.
- Always carefully wash hands with soap and warm water after using the toilet or changing diapers.
- Clean and disinfect diapering areas, toilets, potty chairs, toys, etc., at least daily and when soiled.
Healthy Swimming Tips:
- Do not swallow water or get water in your mouth while swimming.
- Take a shower before and after swimming.
- Do not swim when you have diarrhea.
- When swimming, take your kids on frequent bathroom breaks – waiting to hear “I have to go” may mean that it’s already too late.
- Change diapers in changing rooms, not poolside or on the beach. Wash hands after changing diapers
If you have diarrhea, it is best to stay home. When there are situations involving a food handler, health care worker, or child care worker, or attendee with E. coli infection, the state’s health department will give advice on how to proceed. In some cases, people are not allowed back at work or to child care in a high-risk setting until two stool specimens test negative for the bacteria.
Other Causes of HUS
Only the diarrheal form of HUS is considered to be “typical HUS.” When other events trigger HUS, the cases are classified as atypical HUS. Those events that can bring about HUS besides an E. coli infection include:
HUS is commonly associated with pregnancy and the early postpartum (after delivery) time period, as well as the use of birth control pills. Pregnancy-associated HUS occasionally develops as a complication of preeclampsia.
Pneumonia caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria is another possible factor in some HUS cases and is the cause of 40% of atypical HUS. People with this type of pneumonia are often treated with antibiotics as outpatients.
Some medications may also be associated with HUS, including several chemotherapy and immunosuppression drugs, birth control pills, ticlopidine (Ticlid, an antiplatelet drug), and quinine (Quinerva, Quinite), an antiplatelet drug.
AIDS may be a triggering event for HUS.
How To Report HUS
Infectious disease surveillance has long been a critical aspect of public health. Surveillance efforts contribute to controlling outbreaks and preventing diseases at local, state, and national levels. Post-diarrheal HUS is a nationally notifiable disease. That means confirmed, and probable cases of post-diarrheal HUS must be reported to the CDC by state health departments.
Once a physician suspects or confirms your diagnosis, they are required to notify the local health department. Many states have laws in place that mandate how quickly HUS must be reported to the state’s health department. If you would like to report your illness yourself, contact your state health agency.