By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday reported a continuing increase in illnesses linked to a deadly E. coli outbreak that has spread to four new states.
The CDC reported 28 new cases of people sickened by the bacteria since last week. That brings the total number of cases to 149.
Florida, Minnesota, North Dakota and Texas are the latest states reporting E. coli illnesses since the CDC’s previous update on May 2. California, where one patient died, leads the nation with 30 cases.
Two other states have seen illnesses linked to E. coli with Pennsylvania reporting 20 cases and 11 cases in Idaho.
Investigators Still Determining Source of E. Coli Outbreak
The E. coli outbreak was traced to tainted lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona, region. However, investigators have not yet determined the precise source of the bacteria, which is transmitted from human or animal feces.
“State and local health officials continue to interview ill people to ask about the foods they ate and other exposures they had before they became ill,” the CDC said. “Of the 112 people interviewed, 102 (91%) reported eating romaine lettuce in the week before their illness started.”
Those stricken with the illness range in age from one to 88 years old, with a median age of 30. At least 64 people have been hospitalized, including 17 people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. Sixty-five percent of the victims are female, the Atlanta-based health agency reported.
Contaminated Romaine Lettuce May Still Be in Homes, Stores and Restaurants
“Do not eat or buy romaine lettuce unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma growing region,” the CDC warned. “Romaine lettuce has a shelf life of several weeks, and contaminated lettuce could still be in homes, stores and restaurants.”
This advisory includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, baby romaine, organic romaine, and salads containing romaine lettuce. “If you do not know if the lettuce in a salad mix is romaine, do not eat it,” the CDC advises.
The strain of E. coli behind the outbreak is known as O157:H7, which produces a toxin that causes severe illness, the CDC said.
The current outbreak is the worst since 2006, when E. coli contaminated spinach killed three people and sickened 199 others across 26 states.
Avoiding Illnesses Related to E. Coli
The CDC has a list of steps for consumers to avoid E. coli illnesses:
- Do not eat or buy romaine lettuce unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma area.
- Product labels often do not identify growing regions. Do not eat or buy romaine lettuce if you are not certain where it was grown.
If you have symptoms of an E. coli infection, take action and talk to your healthcare provider. Be sure to:
- Write down what you ate the week before you began to feel ill.
- Report your illness to your local health department.
- Assist public health investigators by answering questions about your illness.