Coli infections traced to romaine lettuce spread to 22 states

Glen Mclaughlin
April 28, 2018

Fourteen more people have become ill from E. coli linked to romaine lettuce, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

Health officials on Friday said they now have reports of 98 cases in 22 states, with the addition of Mississippi, Tennessee and Wisconsin. But that number has soared to 84 as now 19 different states have reported illnesses related to E. coli poisoning stemming from romaine lettuce.

So for now, the CDC is telling consumers to not eat or buy romaine lettuce unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, Arizona growing region. Forty-six people have been hospitalized, including 10 with kidney failure, which is an unusually high number of hospitalizations. According to the CDC, ages range from 1 to 88. The most recent case involved a person becoming sick April 20, but the CDC notes that sicknesses since April 5 may not have been reported yet to authorities. Those symptoms include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.

Pritzker Hageman law firm helps people sickened by food contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, and other pathogenic bacteria get answers, compensation and justice.

For most, recovery will occur within a week, but more severe cases last longer. Most people can prevent E.coli by properly handling food and practicing good hygiene. "They clean it, bag it and distribute it across the country - that's how we get that multiple-state outbreak", Pappaioanou said.

Pappaioanou, an affiliate professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the university, said the country's food system relies on the Arizona area, which is near the Colorado River and US border, for most of its lettuce during winter months.

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Up until now, health problems consist of 18 cases in Pennsylvania, 16 cases in California, 10 in Idaho, 8 cases each in Alaska and Montana, 7 in New Jersey, 5 cases each in Arizona and Washington, 3 cases each in MI and OH, 2 cases each in Colorado, Connecticut and NY, and a single case each in Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. This high rate may be because the strain of E. coli in this outbreak produces a particularly nasty form of the Shiga toxin called Stx2.

Experts have identified one Yuma, Arizona farm, called Harrison Farm, linked to E. coli in whole-head romaine, but two dozen other farms in the area are also being investigated.

An investigation into the source of the outbreak is continuing.

"We haven't been able to guarantee that there's no product coming out of Yuma at this point", said Stic Harris of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration during a briefing for reporters. The area generally supplies all of the nation's romaine between November and March, with harvesting moving north to California at about this time of the year.

This E. coli outbreak is now the largest since 2006, when more than 200 people fell ill after eating contaminated spinach.

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