CDC reports one death from E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce

Riley Steinbrenner  The Badger Herald

"The remainder of illnesses in this outbreak are not linked to romaine lettuce from Harrison Farms".

In the United States, romaine harvesting usually shifts north to California at this time of year, but federal officials have said they can't guarantee there are no more products now coming out of the Yuma growing region.

At the time of CDC's notice, the outbreak had spread to 121 people in 25 states. The government has also reported that at least 52 people have been hospitalized, 14 of which had kidney failure. Twenty-four cases have been reported in California, more than in any other state.

Consumers are still being advised not to eat or buy romaine lettuce unless you can confirm that it did not come from the Yuma growing region.

Laboratory testing in April determined that the strain of deadly E. coli behind the outbreak, known as O157:H7, produces a toxin known to cause more severe illness, which could explain the high hospitalization rate, the CDC said. Signs of HUS include fatigue, decreased frequency of urination, and a loss of the normally pink color in the cheeks and inside the lower eyelids. "The restaurants reported using bagged, chopped romaine lettuce to make salads".

The case count by state is: Alaska (8), Arizona (8), California (24), Colorado (2), CT (2), Georgia (4), Idaho (11), IL (1), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), MA (2), MI (4), MS (1), Missouri (1), Montana (8), New Jersey (7), NY (2), OH (3), Pennsylvania (20), South Dakota (1), Tennessee (1), Virginia (1), Washington (6), and Wisconsin (1). Since 14 people have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, that rate is nearly 14%, which is higher than the typical rate of 5 to 10% for most E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks. Although most recover in one week, it could lead to kidney failure. If you find yourself sick, write down what you've eaten, contact your doctor and report your illness to your local health department.

The Yuma region - which includes farms across the Colorado River in southeastern California - grows the overwhelming majority of the lettuce and other leafy greens consumed in the United States in the winter months, but the industry begins shifting to California's Central Valley and Salinas Valley in the second half of March and early April.

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