Add North Dakota to the list of states touched by the E. coli outbreak caused by Yuma-grown romaine lettuce.
Numerous news sources are reporting that the North Dakota Department of Health has confirmed one illness and is investigating a possible second case.
State epidemiologist Laura Cronquist told the Williston Herald that the Department of Health is urging North Dakotans to be cautious when it comes to eating romaine lettuce.
“This should be a concern to all North Dakota residents,” Cronquist said. “Lettuce from the Yuma growing region was potentially distributed throughout the North Dakota area.”
The Department of Health did not provide details about the sickened resident.
The case has not officially been added to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics on the nationwide E. coli outbreak. The CDC’s last update, posted May 2, put the totals at 121 illnesses in 25 states, with 52 victims hospitalized and one death, in California.
In addition, the CDC reports that 14 victims have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially fatal form of kidney failure (see below).
Outbreak victims range in age from 1 to 88; the median age is 29. Sixty-three percent of people who have been sickened are female. The dates of illnesses range from March 13 to April 21.
no longer produced
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said last week that it has received confirmation from the Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement administered by the Arizona Department of Agriculture that romaine lettuce is no longer being produced and distributed from the Yuma growing region in Arizona, reducing the potential for exposure to E. coli-contaminated romaine.
Because of romaine lettuce’s 21-day shelf life, however, the FDA said it cannot be certain that Yuma-grown romaine lettuce is no longer in the supply chain.
The FDA and CDC have been investigating the outbreak with assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), as well as multiple state departments.
Avoid romaine altogether
The CDC has been advising for weeks that anyone who has purchased romaine lettuce in any form – whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, baby romaine, organic romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine – should throw it away or return it to the place of purchase.
If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, throw it away, the CDC said. And if you insist on purchasing romaine, be sure to confirm that it is not Yuma-grown romaine. If you cannot confirm that, do not buy it or eat it.
E. coli facts and figures
E. coli bacteria are one of the most common causes of food poisoning. There are many strains of E. coli bacteria, which are normally found in the intestines of mammals. Most strains are benign.
The strain causing this E. coli outbreak is Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7. It is also known as E. coli O157:H7, E. coli O157, STEC O157, or even just O157, and it is the most commonly identified STEC in North America.
Anyone can become infected by E. coli bacteria, but people with the greatest risk of becoming severely sick include young children, elderly people, and people with weakened immune systems.
Symptoms of E. coli
An E. coli illness produces symptoms that are similar to those of other foodborne illnesses, such as:
- diarrhea, which can be bloody
- abdominal cramping, which can be very painful
- vomiting and nausea
- fatigue and fever
- loss of appetite
- decreased urination.
Symptoms can last as long as 10 days. Most people recover without needing medical attention, but complications can occur and produce dangerous consequences.
Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)
About 10 percent of people with an E. coli illness will develop HUS, which can become life-threatening.
The overwhelming majority of HUS cases involve children younger than 5 years old. The disease is the leading cause of acute kidney failure (renal failure) for that age group.
HUS typically develops in children after diarrhea persists for longer than a week. The bacteria severely damage red blood cells, and that results in the kidneys’ filtering system becoming clogged. If kidney failure occurs, a kidney transplant is a distinct possibility.
HUS is fatal in 2 percent to 7 percent of cases – and those fatalities usually involve children. HUS victims who survive can suffer long-term consequences, usually impaired kidney function but also hypertension.