Romaine Lettuce linked to E. Coli Outbreak
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), public health, and regulatory officials in several states, Canada, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating a multi-state outbreak of E. Coli infections linked to romaine lettuce. Because the source of the contamination is still unknown, consumers are advised to avoid romaine lettuce altogether.
Any type of romaine lettuce should be thrown away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick. This includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, bags and boxes of pre-cut lettuce, and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.
If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, it is recommended to err on the side of caution and throw it away.
The CDC is also recommending that you wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine was stored. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.
Symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing E. Coli (STEC) infection vary for each person, but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Some people may have a fever, which usually is not very high (less than 101˚F/38.5˚C). Most people get better within five to seven days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening. Most people with a STEC infection start feeling sick three to four days after eating or drinking something that contains the bacteria. However, illnesses can start anywhere from one to 10 days after exposure.
Contact your healthcare provider if you have diarrhea that lasts more than three days or is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool, or vomiting to the extent you cannot keep liquids down and pass very little urine. Additionally, write down what you ate in the week before you started to get sick, report your illness to the health department, and assist public health investigators by answering questions about your illness.
So far, 32 people infected with the outbreak strain of STEC have been reported from 11 states. Illnesses started on dates ranging from Oct. 8 to Oct. 31. Thirteen people were hospitalized, including one person who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified 18 people infected with the same DNA fingerprint of STEC bacteria in two Canadian provinces: Ontario and Quebec.
Epidemiological evidence from the United States and Canada indicates that romaine lettuce is a likely source of the outbreak.
This investigation is ongoing, and CDC will provide more information as it becomes available.