Contaminated romaine lettuce might still linger on store shelves, the CDC says.
Image: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)
A widespread outbreak of Escherichia coli linked to romaine lettuce is now believed to have sickened over 100 people in 25 states and killed one, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday afternoon. And the threat of more cases is still looming.
As of May 1, at least 121 people have contracted the same strain of Shiga-producing E. coli O157:H7 found to have contaminated supplies of romaine grown in the Yuma, Arizona region. Since the previous update on Friday, April 27, there have been 23 more cases in 10 states. The tally of cases dates back to early March, with the latest reported April 21, but people who got sick after April 11 might still take time to be tracked down by public health officials.
Of the 102 people about whom the CDC has available information, 52 have needed to visit the hospital. Nineteen have developed a form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. The single death was reported in California, one of 24 cases in total there. The state has the highest number of cases, followed by Pennsylvania with 20 and Idaho with 11.
A full list of affected states can be seen here.
Through the majority of this outbreak, health agencies hadn’t laid the blame on any one common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand. But last Friday, the Food and Drug Administration determined that cases found at a correctional facility in Alaska were likely caused by whole heads of romaine lettuce grown by Harrison Farms of Yuma, Arizona. The FDA still doesn’t know where in the supply chain this contamination happened, and the farm isn’t thought to be responsible for the majority of other cases caused by contaminated chopped romaine.
The growing season for romaine lettuce in Arizona is over, and any romaine shipped from Harrison Farms—harvested from March 5 to 16—is long past its 21-day shelf life. But there’s still a chance people could come across lettuce grown in the region. So the CDC’s warning that people avoid eating any romaine lettuce (unless you can confirm its source) remains in effect. Likewise, if you’re not sure what kind of lettuce you have, it’s best to be safe and avoid eating it.
Symptoms of O157:h7 infection include horrible stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting. These signs take about three to four days to show up after ingesting the germ. People are advised to seek a doctor if they have diarrhea that lasts for more than three days, becomes bloody, and/or is accompanied by an inability to pee, uncontrollable vomiting, and high fever.
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