E. coli outbreak spreads to 3 more states, a total of 22

Tanya Edwards
Yahoo Lifestyle
Romaine lettuce (Photo: Getty Images)
Romaine lettuce (Photo: Getty Images)

The multistate outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce has spread and now affects 98 people in 22 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The three additional states reporting ill people are Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

At least 46 have been hospitalized.

Last week, the CDC updated its warning about the outbreak, instructing everyone to throw away all romaine lettuce — including whole heads of romaine and hearts of romaine — unless they can confirm that it’s from somewhere else.

 

“Do not buy or eat romaine lettuce at a grocery store or restaurant unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region,” the agency warned. It went on to state that “unless the source of the product is known, consumers anywhere in the United States who have any store-bought romaine lettuce at home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.”

The CDC specifically advises:

  • Don’t eat or buy romaine lettuce unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, Ariz., growing region.

  • Product labels don’t always identify growing regions, so if you’re not sure, don’t eat it.

  • Avoid whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce.

The lettuce is coming from the Yuma region, and it is specifically contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The bacterial infection generally causes severe stomach cramps, diarrhea that is often bloody, and vomiting; it may also cause a fever. Like many other food-borne illnesses, some infections are mild, whereas others can be dangerous.

According to CDC data, the last multistate outbreak of this magnitude was back in 2006. That outbreak was traced back to spinach and was linked to 238 illnesses and five deaths.

Like the 2006 outbreak, the CDC says the bacteria strain behind the current outbreak tends to cause more serious illnesses. Forty-six people have been hospitalized, including 10 with a form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The most recent illness began a week ago. No deaths have been reported.

Recalls of bagged greens seem to be happening with more frequency. In mid-April, more than 8,700 pounds of bagged ready-to-eat salads were recalled due to possible E. coli contamination. In December, the CDC warned of a multistate outbreak of E. coli linked to leafy greens, and in October, the FDA issued a recall of several types of salad kits due to potential listeria contamination.

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