Published: Sun, June 03, 2018
Medicine | By Douglas Stevenson

5 dead, almost 200 sickened in romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak


Four more people have died as a result of the E. coli outbreak tied to romaine lettuce, bringing the total to five deaths, health officials reported Friday.

The CDC said that some of the affected people had not eaten lettuce, but had contact with others who had fallen ill. On Friday, health officials said they have learned of four more - two in Minnesota and one each in Arkansas and NY. Deaths have been confirmed in Arkansas, California, Minnesota and NY with two of those deaths happening in Minnesota.

The latest batch of illnesses are believed to be linked to romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona region.

The first illnesses occurred in March, and the most recent began on May 12, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While almost 90 percent of those who fell ill reported eating romaine lettuce in the week before they were sickened, some told the CDC that they did not personally eat the lettuce but were in close contact with somebody who did. Twenty-six of those patients developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a form of kidney failure.

Numerous new cases were people who became ill two to three weeks ago, when contaminated lettuce was still being sold.

But since the growing season has ended, and affected lettuce is now off the shelves, the FDA may never get their answer.

The CDC has not pinpointed the exact source of the outbreak, but the lettuce appears to have been contaminated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7, a particularly unsafe strain of the bacteria.

It is the largest U.S. outbreak of E. coli since 200 people fell ill in 2006.

While most people recover within a week, some illnesses can last longer and be more severe, the CDC cautioned.

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