Published: Mon, June 04, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce killed 5, sickened 197

E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce killed 5, sickened 197

- Four more deaths have been linked to a national food poisoning outbreak blamed on tainted lettuce, bringing the total to five.

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

The warning is no longer in effect as the contaminated lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region is no longer harvested. "So any immediate risk is gone".

The specific type of E. coli linked to this outbreak makes 265,000 people in the USA sick, sends 3,600 to the hospital and kills about 30 each year, the CDC reported. Gottlieb is Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Ostroff is FDA's Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine. People who get sick from toxin-producing E. coli come down with symptoms about three to four days after consumption, with many suffering bloody diarrhea, severe stomach cramps and vomiting.

Most of the newly reported sick people became ill within the period when contaminated romaine lettuce was still available. It takes two to three weeks from when a person becomes sick with E. coli for the case to be reported to the CDC.


For romaine lettuce growers it meant abandoning the popular green, or shifting production out of Arizona and into other areas like California.

Of the total 187 patients for whom information was available, 89 (or 48 per cent) were hospitalised, including 26 who developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Gottlieb and Ostroff said the FDA is working to track the source of this outbreak, but is so far coming up with very little. "If the explanation was as simple as a single farm, or a single processor or distributor, we would have already figured that out". Unlike spinach, which is often cooked, romaine - and lettuce in general - is more common as a culprit in E. coli outbreaks because it's eaten raw.

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

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