Medicine

Five people die in US romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak

Five people die in US romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak

FRIDAY, June 1, 2018 (HealthDay News) - This spring's outbreak of E. coli illness tied to tainted Arizona romaine lettuce is likely over, USA health officials say, but not before claiming five lives.

"Most of the people who recently became ill ate romaine lettuce when lettuce from the Yuma [Arizona] growing region was likely still available in stores, restaurants, or in peoples' homes", the report said.

Canada's Public Health Agency has also recorded six cases of E. coli "with a similar genetic fingerprint" to the U.S. infections.

The CDC has not pinpointed the exact source of the outbreak, but the lettuce appears to have been contaminated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7, a particularly unsafe strain of the bacteria.

According to the official blog of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 11 fields in the Brawley, Calif. area are shown to be original sources of the romaine lettuce. Symptoms can include bloody diarrhea, vomiting and severe stomach cramps. That being said, the CDC continues to investigate the outbreak and warned that new cases from May could still come to light due to a three-week lag in reporting. Young children and adults have a greater risk of developing a form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is life-threatening. It takes two to three weeks from when a person becomes sick with E. coli for the case to be reported to the CDC.

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The FDA said its investigators were still working to trace sources of the outbreak.

They haven't been able yet to trace the affected lettuce back to one particular farm, processor or distributor, FDA authorities said in an update Thursday.

For most, recovery will occur within a week, but more severe cases last longer.

Last winter, Consumer Reports criticized the CDC and the FDA for not warning people away from romaine lettuce when there was a similar outbreak, but the CDC said at the time that it couldn't pinpoint what type of salad green might be responsible.