Recalls and a Lawsuit Result from Sushi-Based Salmonella Outbreak

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A nationwide outbreak of salmonella linked to sushi has sickened at least 316 people, including nine people in Connecticut. Investigators identified as the likely source a product made from raw yellowfin tuna imported from India, known as Nakaochi Scrape. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced two separate recalls related to the outbreak. No one has died due to poisoning in this outbreak, but numerous victims have required hospitalization. At least one victim has filed a lawsuit against the company that imported the product, California-based Moon Marine USA Corporation (MMI), claiming reimbursement for medical bills.

Salmonella is a bacterium that can contaminate various food products. It can cause salmonellosis in humans, which features fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps lasting four to seven days. Most victims fully recover, but it can be fatal, particularly for infants, the elderly, and people with weakened or compromised immune systems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed 316 cases of salmonella poisoning by two different strains of the bacterium. Most of the cases, 304 total, involve the rare strain Salmonella Bareilly. All of the Connecticut cases involve this strain. Another twelve cases involve Salmonella Nchanga. The first cases probably began around January 28, 2012, continuing until May 3, but illnesses occurring after April 17 might not have been reported yet. Officials say that 29.3 cases go unreported for every reported salmonella case. Laboratory tests conducted by several state health agencies, including one in Connecticut, found salmonella in ninety-six percent of the sample packages of Nakaochi Scrape they tested.

CPSC Recalls Inflatable Pool Slides Due to Risk of Neck Injury or Death

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently announced a recall of roughly 21,000 inflatable water slides. One person has died, and several more have suffered disabling injuries, because of a defective condition in the slides’ design or assembly. The slide, which sits on the side of a swimming pool so users can slide into the water, can suddenly deflate or topple while in use. Both Wal-Mart and Toys R Us are reportedly cooperating with the CPSC in announcing and facilitating the recall. The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection is also assisting with the recall.

The recalled product is a “Banzai in-ground pool water slide” manufactured by Manley Toys, Ltd. in China. Wal-Mart and Toys R Us sold the slide for $250 from January 2005 through June 2009 in stores around the country. The pool inflates to a height of six feet, and is designed for use with in-ground pools. Once inflated, a hose connects to the top of the slide so water can run down the slide’s surface. It has the words “Banzai Splash” on either side with a wave-shaped logo in blue, orange, and white. The CPSC urges consumers to cease use of the product immediately. Wal-Mart and Toys R Us stores are accepting returns and offering full refunds.

A Colorado woman, 29 year-old Robin Aleo, suffered a fatal injury using one of the slides while visiting relatives in Andover, Massachusetts. On July 29, 2006, she began to slide down head-first, when the slide suddenly deflated. She hit her head on the edge of the pool, which broke her neck and paralyzed her. The injury left her unable to breathe on her own, and she died in the hospital the next day.

Mother Settles Suit Against Treatment Center for Allegedly Torturing Her Son, then Petitions to End Center’s “Shock Treatment” Policy

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A mother in Massachusetts has settled her lawsuit against a treatment facility that, she alleged, subjected her son to shock treatments that constituted torture. Video of the procedure became widely available on the internet after the judge unsealed it and news of the case spread. Although the mother is reportedly satisfied with the settlement, she has also continued a public campaign to put pressure on the center to stop its use of the shock treatments allegedly used on her son.

Andre McCollins was born with serious disabilities, and as he grew older he experienced difficult behavioral and mental issues. In 2002 his mother, Cheryl McCollins, sent him to the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts when he was eighteen years old. While Andre was a patient at the JRC, staff subjected him to what is known as “aversive therapy.” The JRC reportedly says that this is used for patients with acute behavioral problems and actions like cutting or other self-mutilation. It is apparently the only facility in the U.S. that uses this treatment. The treatment consists of administering an electric shock to a small area of skin for a few seconds. The Center claims that it obtains permission from both a patient’s parents and a judge before administering the treatment.

The video that Cheryl McCollins obtained, however, shows her son strapped to a table face-down, restrained by staffers, while he screams for help. She claimed that staffers did this as punishment because Andre removed his coat during a class. In the video, Andre’s body goes stiff, then begins to shake when the shocks are administered. On the day the video was recorded, he was reportedly shocked thirty-one times. Several psychologists employed by the JRC were allegedly present for the treatment. Cheryl McCollins reportedly found her son in a “catatonic state” during a visit three days later. She took him to a hospital in Boston, where doctors said he was having an “acute stress response” brought on by the shocks, and that the shocks could have risked his life.

Connecticut Pedestrian Death Puts Spotlight on Distracted Driving Among Teens

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An accident in which a teenage driver, allegedly distracted by a hand-held cell phone, struck and killed a jogger in Norwalk, Connecticut has brought attention to the issue of distracted driving and its risks. These risks are particularly pronounced for young and novice drivers. However, distracted driving — generally defined as driving while dividing attention between the road and a hand-held electronic communication device like a cell phone — is dangerous for everyone. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, over 3,000 people died in automobile accidents in 2010 in which distraction was a factor. Connecticut’s laws regarding distracted driving are among the strictest in the nation, but all drivers should be mindful of the dangers posed by distracted driving.

The accident occurred on March 24, 2012, when a 16 year-old teen driver struck and killed a jogger, 44 year-old Kenneth Dorsey. Police are withhelding the girl’s name because of her age, but they allege that she was using a hand-held cell phone either when the accident occurred, or shortly before it happened. Prosecutors in Norwalk charged her with negligent homicide, which could result in up to a year in jail. She also faces a fine and a thirty-day license suspension for violating Connecticut’s cell phone ban for drivers under the age of eighteen.

Connecticut passed its distracted driving law in 2008, and teen deaths from traffic accidents have reportedly declined steeply since then. Total annual teen traffic fatalities in Connecticut peaked at thirteen in 2007 and dropped to two by 2011. The law imposes strict limitations on minor and novice drivers.

Drivers under the age of eighteen cannot use cell phones in any manner, including with a hands-free device, while they operate a vehicle. This blanket prohibition also applies to school bus drivers who are working. The law prohibits all other drivers from hand-held cell phone use while driving, but they may use a hands-free device. A ban on texting while driving applies to all drivers statewide. Violations can results in a license suspension and a fine or reinstatement fee. Connecticut is reportedly the only state that allows police, if they catch a teen violating the cell phone ban, to suspend the teen’s license for forty-eight hours at the scene.

Former High School Football Player Reaches $4.4 Million Settlement with School District Over 2007 Head Injury

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A former high school football linebacker has settled a lawsuit against the school district where he used to play for $4.4 million. Scott Eveland, now 22 years old, suffered traumatic brain injury during a 2007 game that left him confined to a wheelchair, able to communicate only through a specially-designed computer keyboard or iPad. He had previously settled a suit against the company that manufactured his helmet. His suit against the school district alleged negligence on the part of coaching staff for ignoring or failing to recognize his injuries prior to the game.

On September 14, 2007, Eveland reportedly asked the school’s athletic trainer if he could sit out the first quarter of a game, complaining of a severe headache that had already caused him to miss some practice. A student trainer who claimed to be present testified at a deposition in 2010 that she heard the trainer relay the request to the coach, and heard the coach respond, using an expletive, that only he would decide who would or would not play in the game. In deposition testimony, both the coach and the trainer denied having this conversation.

Eveland started the game, but only played for thirty minutes before collapsing on the field. After he was rushed to the hospital, he required emergency surgery to remove part of his skull. He spent several weeks recovering in the hospital, but unfortunately the bleeding in his brain had caused excessive damage. He can only communicate by typing on a specialized keyboard, and he requires help supporting his elbow to do that.

Settlement Reached in Wrongful Death Lawsuit over 2010 Boat Accident

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The parents of two Hungarian students who died when a barge collided with their tour boat in Philadelphia settled their wrongful death lawsuit against the companies that operated the two vessels and the city. The settlement occurred after two days of trial in federal court, after the judge urged the attorneys to try to settle the case. The defendants had asserted caps on liability based on federal maritime law.

The two students, 16 year-old Dora Schwendtner and 20 year-old Szabolcs Prem, drowned after an eighty-yard barge collided with their tour boat in July 2010. The tour boat, an amphibious “duck boat” that could both drive on land and water, had become disabled. Someone had reportedly left a radiator cap off of the engine, causing it to overheat in the 103-degree weather. The captain dropped anchor in the middle of a busy channel on the Delaware River near downtown Philadelphia, having mistaken steam coming off the engine for a fire. The duck boat reportedly lacked a radio and an emergency air horn. Thirty-seven passengers and crew were on board.

A tugboat was pushing the barge in the same channel. The tugboat captain, reportedly distracted by a family medical emergency, had moved to a part of the boat where he could not see the river in order to use his cellphone. He therefore did not see the duck boat, which was dead in the water in the barge’s path. The barge crashed into the duck boat, causing it to capsize and sending thirty-five passengers and crew into the water. Schwendtner and Prem were trapped on the boat, where they drowned. At least twenty-six people were injured. The tug pilot pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in November 2011 and received a one-year prison sentence.

Few Resources Available to Track Sports Injuries Among Young Athletes

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Baseball_catcherThe death of a young baseball player in Illinois has demonstrated the need for comprehensive data on youth sports injuries. Extensive data are available for high school and collegiate sports, but not for participants in sports who are younger than high school age even though they face many of the same risks of injuries. In addition to injuries from accidents and ordinary game play, children face the risk of injury from faulty or defective athletic equipment, particularly protective gear.

A 12 year-old baseball player from Oswego, Illinois died on April 12, 2012 due to an injury sustained during a game. Eric Lederman was warming up on the side of the field, playing catch with a teammate. The ball reportedly struck him in the neck, hitting his carotid artery. He collapsed immediately, and was taken to the hospital. Doctors pronounced him dead shortly after 8:00 p.m. that night. They ruled the death an accident, the result of head trauma causing a cerebral hemorrhage.

Lederman had played baseball for five years, including three years with the league’s traveling team. He played center field, third base, and catcher. He was reportedly warming up for the catcher position at the time of the accident. A league spokesperson did not know if he was wearing protective gear, or if it would have made any difference if he were. The league has reviewed its safety regulations in response to Lederman’s death, and they have conducted a safety inspection of all their equipment.

FDA Warns of Threat to Children from Discarded Pain Patches

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256px-Fentanyl_patch_packagesThe fentanyl patch, which delivers a potent narcotic painkiller through the skin to people receiving treatment for injuries and pain management, poses a serious threat to children. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning to the public that exposure to the patch can be deadly to children, and that patients using the patch should take great care in disposing of used patches.

Fentanyl is a synthetic narcotic analgesic used as a painkiller and anesthetic, available in generic form or under the brand name Duragesic. It is about one hundred times stronger than morphine, and its effects have a rapid onset and short duration. It is used to treat patients suffering from chronic pain, where ordinary pain medications cannot provide relief. It is commonly delivered to a patient through a skin patch that provides a continuous low dosage of the medication. The drug can be addictive, and doctors only prescribe it for people who are already used to the effects of narcotic pain medications. One patch will last at least seventy-two hours. Fentanyl patches should never be placed in the mouth or swallowed. Patients are specifically cautioned to keep patches away from children under the age of two.

Prescription Drug Errors and Abuse Causing an Increasing Number of Deaths Nationwide

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800px-US_Army_52156_VA_warns_veterans_of_telephone_prescription_scam_05032012.jpgA survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reveals that as many as 22 million Americans use illegal drugs of one kind or another. “Illegal drugs,” as defined by the survey, includes both controlled substances like cocaine and marijuana and prescription medications used improperly. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued in April indicates that prescription drug abuse has led to a ninety percent increase in poisoning-related deaths among teens aged fifteen to nineteen between 2000 and 2009. Prescription drug abuse is evidently becoming more common, and studies suggest much of it involves legally-obtained medications. In terms of civil liability for medical professionals, the question is not as clear as it is for a medication error.

The CDC reports that 27,000 people died in 2007 from accidental drug overdoses in the United States. The agency also says that deaths due to drug overdose and abuse have overtaken car accidents as a cause of death among teenagers. As much as twenty percent of teens surveyed by the CDC in 2009 said they had taken prescription medications without a prescription. A large number of these may be painkillers, which have a high potential for abuse, fatal drug interactions, or overdoses. Opioid analgesics, which are common active ingredients in painkillers and other drugs, now cause more fatal overdoses than cocaine and heroin combined, according to the CDC.

Although some people who abuse prescription drugs may obtain them illegally, many obtain them directly through a physician’s prescription or from a person with a valid prescription. Doctors and pharmacies must take great care in how they prescribe painkillers and other high-alert drugs. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) recently suspended the licenses of two Florida CVS pharmacies because they allegedly dispensed more units of the painkiller oxycodone than any other pharmacy in the state, thus endangering public safety. According to the DEA, they filled multiple prescriptions for out-of-state patients and dispensed hundreds of thousands of tablets. This allegedly suggests dispensation of painkillers to addicts. Regulators also suspended a Florida distributor’s license to distribute controlled substances for allegedly “selling excessive amounts of oxycodone” to the two CVS stores and other pharmacies. The pharmacies and the distributors face license revocation hearings.

Victim of Chimpanzee Attack Seeks to Hold State of Connecticut Liable for Injuries

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Lightmatter_chimpThe victim of a brutal 2009 attack by a chimpanzee is seeking to hold the state of Connecticut liable for her injuries for failing to enforce animal control regulations and protect the public. Charla Nash, who suffered severe and disfiguring injuries in the attack, alleges that the state had warnings that the chimpanzee could be dangerous. Police shot and killed the chimpanzee while the attack was occurring. Nash also sued the chimpanzee’s owner, who passed away in 2010.

Nash was visiting her friend Sandra Herold at Herold’s Stamford, Connecticut home on February 16, 2009. Travis, a thirteen year-old, 200-pound chimpanzee, was roaming the grounds at the time of Nash’s visit. Travis had starred in television commercials and was highly socialized, reportedly even dressing and bathing himself and using a computer to look at pictures. For reasons that remain uncertain, Travis attacked Nash. While Herold reportedly stabbed at Travis with a butcher knife and hit him with a shovel, Travis blinded Nash and tore off her hands, lips, eyelids, and nose. The attack also caused Nash traumatic brain injury. Police shot and killed the chimpanzee.

Nash required months of hospitalization to recover from wounds described as “life-changing, if not life-threatening.” An attempt to transplant new hands by doctors in Boston was not successful, but they successfully performed a face transplant in August 2011. Nash continues to recover from that procedure to this day.