Atlanta, Georgia, USA: The E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce has spread to 25 states and led to the first death with 121 reported hospitalizations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Wednesday.
The affected states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
“E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce continues. Do not eat or buy ANY type of romaine lettuce unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, Arizona growing region” the CDC warned.
“Illnesses that occurred after April 11, 2018, might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of two to three weeks.” the CDC said.
Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 13, 2018 to April 21, 2018. Ill people range in age from 1 to 88 years, with a median age of 29. Sixty-three percent of ill people are female. Of 102 people with information available, 52 (51%) have been hospitalized, including 14 people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. One death was reported from California, the CDC said.
E. coli, or Escherichia coli, is a bacteria that normally lives harmlessly in the intestines of people and animals. Some types can cause illness through exposure to contaminated food or water, or contact with animals or other people. Symptoms include severe stomach cramps, often bloody diarrhea, and vomiting.
E. coli can be prevented by thorough hand washing after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, before and after food preparation, and after contact with animals.
CDC Advice to Consumers, Restaurants, and Retailers
Information collected to date indicates that romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region could be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and could make people sick.
CDC Advice to Consumers
- Do not eat or buy romaine lettuce unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.
- Product labels often do not identify growing regions; so, do not eat or buy it if you are uncertain about where it was grown.
- This advice includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce. If you do not know if the lettuce in a salad mix is romaine, do not eat it.
- Take action if you have symptoms of an E. coli infection:
- Talk to your healthcare provider.
- Write down what you ate in the week before you started to get sick.
- Report your illness to the health department.
- Assist public health investigators by answering questions about your illness.
- Follow these general ways to prevent E. coli infection:
- Wash your hands. Wash hands after using the restroom or changing diapers, before and after preparing or eating food, and after contact with animals.
- Don’t prepare food or drink for others when you are sick.
- Cook meats thoroughly to kill harmful germs. Cook steaks and roasts to at least 145˚F and let rest for 3 minutes after you remove meat from the grill or stove. Cook ground beef and pork to at least 160˚F. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the meat.
- Don’t cross-contaminate food preparation areas. Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat.
- Wash fruits and vegetables before eating, unless the package says the contents have been washed.
- Avoid raw milk, other unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices.
CDC Advice to Restaurants and Retailers
- Do not serve or sell any romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region. This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, baby romaine, organic romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce.
- Restaurants and retailers should ask their suppliers about the source of their romaine lettuce.
CDC Advice to Clinicians
- Antibiotics are not recommended for patients with suspected E. coli O157 infections until diagnostic testing can be performed and E. coli O157 infection is ruled out. Some studies have shown that administering antibiotics to patients with E. coli O157 infections might increase their risk of developing hemolytic uremic syndrome (a type of kidney failure), and a benefit of treatment has not been clearly demonstrated.