There has been increasing alarm because of a recent outbreak of E. Coli in Romaine lettuce from Arizona. What started out as a fairly contained outbreak on the east coast has now spread to 16 states. The first cases were discovered by patients who had consumed Romaine lettuce in several Panera Restaurants. As of Friday, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has indicated that great caution should be taken for all packaged Romaine lettuce. However, it has now expanded it to Romaine lettuce that is chopped, whole leaf, hearts and pre-packaged salads that contain Romaine.
Over the last several weeks, the warnings on eating all types of Romaine lettuce and the scope of the outbreak has increasingly encompassed outbreaks in other regions of the country. The most recent outbreak has included Alaska after a group of inmates became ill at a correctional facility. It occurred after the inmates became sick after consuming Romaine lettuce from whole heads of lettuce imported from the Arizona region.
The CDC is now warning people to not consume any Romaine lettuce unless it can be confirmed that it has not come from Arizona which is known as the “affected region”. They are encouraging people to throw away any store-bought Romaine lettuce unless they can verify it did not come from the affected region. Many of the prepackaged salads are at risk of coming from the Yuma region of Arizona that has been the source of the outbreak.
Presently, there have been 53 confirmed cases of E. Coli from 16 states from this outbreak. Of the 53-people known to have contracted the illness, 31 of them have been hospitalized. Fortunately, none of the confirmed cases have been fatal. However, five of those people infected have since developed a form of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome.
The outbreak which started April 9th shows no sign of dissipating and the exact source of the outbreak has yet to be determined. The E. Coli strain is known as O157:H7 which produces a chemical known as Shiga toxin.
Annually E. Coli sickens as many as 265,000 Americans but most cases are mild with the more advanced strain of this bacteria causing severe symptoms. E. Coli hospitalizes approximately 3,600 people and kills about 60 people annually in America. While death is the most severe concern, many people who contract the illness can suffer from other significant health issues including kidney failure.
Typical symptoms for E. Coli include: severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and fever which can mimic many stomach flu symptoms. The illness typically arrives within 3 to 4 days and subsides within 5 to 10 days.
The current states that have confirmed cases of this more severe strain of E. Coli has been found mostly on the east coast and the west coast including: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and Washington. The highest number of reported cases has been in Pennsylvania. However other high amounts have been found in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Idaho, Washington and Montana region.