Health officials say chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region is the likely source of the current E. coli outbreak that has now sickened people in 11 states, and they're warning consumers across the country to avoid eating lettuce that may have been contaminated.
According to the latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so far there have been 35 cases of illness, 22 of which led to hospitalizations. Three people have developed a severe complication – a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can be life-threatening. The outbreak involves a particularly dangerous strain of the bacteria known as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7.
"Information collected to date indicates that chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region could be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and could make people sick," the CDC said in a statement.
No common grower, supplier, or distributor has been identified yet. State and local public health investigators continue interviewing ill people to determine what they ate and how they might have been exposed.
So far, cases of illness from this outbreak have been reported in Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.
Romaine lettuce warning
To keep yourself and your family safe, the CDC recommends avoiding any romaine lettuce products that could be contaminated. It issued a wide-ranging caution, not limited to any specific brand or retailer:
"Consumers anywhere in the United States who have store-bought chopped romaine lettuce at home, including salads and salad mixes containing chopped romaine lettuce, should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick. If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away."
In addition, before buying romaine lettuce at a grocery store or ordering it at a restaurant, check to see if it came from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region. If you cannot confirm it isn't from Yuma, do not purchase it.
The CDC urged restaurants and retailers to ask their suppliers about the source of their chopped romaine lettuce, and not to sell any chopped romaine lettuce, including salads and salad mixes containing it, from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region.
Officials note this outbreak is not related to another recent multi-state outbreak also linked to leafy greens, which involved a different DNA fingerprint of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.
Symptoms of E. coli
Symptoms of an E. coli infection include diarrhea, which can be bloody, severe stomach cramps, and vomiting. It typically takes an average of three to four days to get sick after eating contaminated food, and the illness usually clears up within a week.
However, sometimes it can linger longer and serious complications can develop. Signs of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) include fever, abdominal pain, pale skin tone, fatigue and irritability, unexplained bruises or bleeding from the nose and mouth, and decreased urination. These complications are more common in young children under 5, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical care immediately.
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