By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
The number of cases of people becoming ill with E. coli food poisoning from tainted romaine lettuce continues to rise, despite health officials’ attempts to stem the outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Wednesday that the total number of people sickened by E. coli had risen to 172 cases across 32 states.
At least 75 people have been hospitalized, including 20 with kidney failure. So far, only one death has been reported.
Twenty-three new cases in 13 states were added to the CDC list since the last update on May 9, 2018.
Recent E. Coli Cases Involve Iowa, Nebraska and Oregon
Three more states – Iowa, Nebraska and Oregon – have reported E. coli-related illnesses. The most recent cases started when romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region was likely still available in stores, restaurants and in peoples’ homes, the CDC noted.
Health officials caution that the number of cases could continue to increase because it takes two to three weeks from the time someone becomes ill to when the case is reported to the CDC.
The CDC cited a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcement that the last shipments of romaine lettuce from the Yuma region were harvested on April 16, 2018. The harvest season is now over, so “it is unlikely that any romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region is still available in stores or restaurants due to its 21-day shelf life,” the FDA .
FDA Continuing Its Investigation into Illnesses Caused by Contaminated Romaine
Nevertheless, the FDA continues to investigate illnesses related to romaine lettuce from the Yuma region.
The FDA notes that so far, the “traceback” investigation indicates that the illnesses cannot be explained by a single grower, harvester, processor or distributor.
“While traceback continues, FDA will focus on trying to identify factors that contributed to contamination of romaine across multiple supply chains. The agency is examining all possibilities, including that contamination may have occurred at any point along the growing, harvesting, packaging and distribution chain before reaching consumers,” the FDA said.
E. Coli Illnesses Mostly Striking Female Victims
The CDC says those stricken with E. coli illnesses range in age from one to 88 years old, with a median age of 30. Sixty-five percent of the victims are female.
The strain of E. coli behind the outbreak is known as O157:H7, which produces a toxin that causes severe illness. The current outbreak is the worst since 2006, when E. coli-contaminated spinach killed three people and sickened 199 others across 26 states.