Karen Odens suffered from grief and PTSD after her 4-year-old daughter, Sophia, died in 2014 from an E. coli infection, but she also had health issues of her own directly related to the same E. coli strain—and on July 14, she also passed away at age 39. "The last four years have been really pretty rough," Odens' father, Ed Welke, tells the Star Tribune, adding that mom and daughter were joined at the hip before Sophia's death. The Twin Cities Pioneer Press reports Sophia died in February 2014, just a few days after she contracted the E. coli from a still-unknown source. As for how Odens was infected, it's believed—but not confirmed—she actually got it from being in the hospital where Sophia was being treated before she died.
"When the public thinks about E. coli, they often think about ground beef," a Minnesota Department of Health epidemiologist tells the Star Tribune. "But [person-to-person transmission] absolutely is a risk." Welke tells KARE 11 that his daughter had also been born with congenital defects, which made it even harder for her to fight off the E. coli O157 strain. Odens' obituary notes she took a leave of absence from her job as a pharmacist in Pelican Rapids due to her health issues, and she'd been undergoing kidney dialysis for most of this year. "I urge everybody to wash your fruits and vegetables," Welke tells KARE 11. "Don't trust anything. Because when you buy ... from the grocery store, you have to protect yourself." (Read more E. coli stories.)