For the second time this year, contaminated romaine lettuce is making people sick from E. coli. And in announcing this latest outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is being blunt with consumers: Don’t eat romaine lettuce – period.
Retailers and restaurants are being advised to not serve or sell any romaine lettuce until the CDC learns more, and consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.
This advice includes all types of romaine lettuce: whole heads; hearts; bags and boxes of precut romaine; salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad; and even organic romaine.
Don’t eat romaine lettuce: the outbreak
There have been 32 cases of E. coli illnesses reported in 11 states, and 13 victims have been hospitalized. One of those hospitalized developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a dangerous type of kidney failure.
Illnesses started on dates ranging from Oct. 8 to Oct. 31, and ill people range in age from 7 to 84 years, with a median age of 24. Sixty-six percent of those sickened are female.
The outbreak also has affected Canada. The Public Health Agency of Canada said it has identified 18 ill people infected with the same DNA fingerprint of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
Don’t eat romaine lettuce: more advice
The CDC is also advising:
- If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, throw it away.
- Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine was stored. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.
- Talk to your health-care provider.
- Write down what you ate in the week before you became sick.
- Report your illness to the health department.
- Assist public health investigators by answering questions about your illness.
Don’t eat romaine lettuce: first outbreak
The first romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak of 2018 was called to a close by the CDC on June 28, but not until five people had died. A total of 210 people were sickened in 36 states, and 96 of them were hospitalized.
The investigation concluded that romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region was the source of the outbreak.
Don’t eat romaine lettuce: E. coli info
E. coli are one of the most common bacteria causing foodborne illnesses. There are many strains of E. coli; the strain identified as the culprit in this outbreak is the same as the one that was responsible for the first outbreak of the year: Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7.
Escherichia coli O157:H7 is also known as E. coli O157:H7, E. coli O157, STEC O157, or simply O157.
Anyone can become infected with E. coli, but people with the greatest risk of becoming severely ill include young children, senior citizens, and people with weakened immune systems.
Don’t eat romaine lettuce: symptoms
E. coli bacteria generally produce symptoms similar to those of other foodborne illnesses, such as:
- diarrhea, which can become bloody
- abdominal pain
- nausea and vomiting
- lack of appetite
- diminished urination.
Most people who become sick with E. coli will recover without requiring medical attention. Complications like HUS can develop, however, and produce dangerous consequences.
Don’t eat romaine lettuce: more on HUS
Hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, almost always affects children younger than 5. HUS is the leading cause of acute kidney failure (renal failure) for that age group.
About 10 percent of E. coli cases develop into HUS, which can become life-threatening. HUS usually develops after a prolonged bout of diarrhea, a week or longer.
E. coli severely damage red blood cells, which can clog the kidneys’ filtering system. When this occurs, kidney failure can be the result, and a kidney transplant is a possibility.