The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has expanded its warning about E. coli-tainted romaine lettuce to include all types of romaine from the Yuma, AZ, growing region, not just chopped romaine.
In an online statement, the CDC said: “This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce.”
The statement goes on to read:
“State and local health officials in Alaska interviewed ill people at a correctional facility in that state to ask about the foods they ate and other exposures before they became ill. Ill people reported eating romaine lettuce. Traceback investigations show that the lettuce ill people ate came from whole heads of romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.
“The new information from the investigation in Alaska along with other 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. Read CDC’s advice to consumers, restaurants, and retailers.”
“This investigation is ongoing, and CDC will provide more information as it becomes available. The new Alaska cases will be included in the next case count update; they are not reflected on the epi curve and map for this posting.”
More than 60 illnesses
According to a statement from the Alaska Department of Health & Social Services (DHSS), at least eight cases of E. coli illness were confirmed at the Anvil Mountain Correctional Center in Nome. The would push the outbreak totals to at least 61 ill in 16 states, with at least 31 victims hospitalized.
The CDC statistics also show that five people have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially fatal type of kidney failure (see below). No deaths have been reported.
People who have become sick in the outbreak range in age from 10 years old to 85. The median age is 34, and 70 percent of the victims are female. Illnesses have been reported as far back as March 13.
The CDC previously said it is investigating the outbreak in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and several state departments.
E. coli O157:H7 identified
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 – also called E. coli O157:H7, E. coli O157, STEC O157, or simply O157 – has been identified as the common strain in all illnesses involved in the outbreak.
E. coli O157 is the most commonly identified Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) in North America. When you hear news reports about E. coli outbreaks, they are usually talking about E. coli O157.
CDC says “throw it away”
The CDC is advising that anyone who has purchased romaine lettuce in any form should throw it away, or return it to the place of purchase. If you don’t know if the lettuce is romaine, get rid of it, the CDC said.
If you insist on buying romaine lettuce, whether in a restaurant or at a grocery store, you should first confirm that it is not from the Yuma growing area. If you cannot confirm that, do not buy it or eat it.
E. coli information
E. coli bacteria are one of the most common causes of foodborne illness in the U.S. annually. Most strains are benign, and E. coli are normally found in the intestines of mammals.
Anyone can become infected by E. coli, but people with the highest risk of becoming severely ill include children younger than 5, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.
E. coli symptoms
E. coli bacteria produce symptoms similar to those of other foodborne illnesses:
- diarrhea, which often can be bloody
- severe abdominal cramping
- nausea and vomiting
- fever and fatigue
- loss of appetite
- decreased urination.
Symptoms can last up to 10 days. Most people recover without needing medical attention, but complications can arise and produce dangerous consequences.
Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)
About 10 percent of people infected with E. coli will develop HUS, which can be life-threatening. The overwhelming majority of HUS cases involve children younger than 5; the disease is the leading cause of acute kidney failure for that age group.
HUS typically develops after a prolonged case of diarrhea, usually a week or longer. The bacteria damage red blood cells, which can clog the kidneys’ filtering system. If kidney failure occurs, a kidney transplant is often necessary.
HUS is fatal 2 percent to 7 percent of the time, and those cases usually involve children. Victims who survive, however, can suffer long-term consequences, such as impaired kidney function or hypertension.