Infectious disease physicians treat illnesses caused by viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. Infectious disease expert witnesses are an important part of the legal team in cases regarding standard of care and causation for infections such as HIV, MRSA, salmonella, meningitis, etc. In the news, former CEO at the Peanut Corporation of America, Stewart Parnell, was sentenced to 28 years in prison on 72 counts of fraud, conspiracy and the introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce. A deadly salmonella outbreak in 2008 was traced back to peanut butter paste made by PCA. Nine people died and 714 others became ill from the peanut products. Parnell is the first corporate executive to serve federal prison time for food poisoning.
The FDA estimates that every year 48 million people suffer from food-borne illnesses. Salmonella alone causes one million illnesses in the United States, with 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths. The Centers For Disease Control describes salmonella:
The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most individuals recover without treatment. In some cases, diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites. In these cases, Salmonella can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.
Infectious disease issues for illnesses such as salmonella are complex. Contamination can occur at any point along the food production chain. The infectious disease expert witness is a key player in litigation involving food borne outbreaks as well as all bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.