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CDC Warns U.S. of Widespread E. coli Outbreak from Romaine Lettuce

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The Center for Disease Control issued a grim warning this week regarding a troubling E. coli outbreak that has now affected 11 states and several Canadian provinces. A statement released by the CDC provides details to an outbreak of E. coli that has resulted in at least 32 people falling ill. It added that the cause of this outbreak is likely tied to romaine lettuce. So far, cases have been reported in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Those who have gotten sick from this outbreak of E. coli have been shown to have been infected with the same DNA fingerprint as the recent E. coli strain that infected people in a 2017 outbreak tied to leafy greens sold in the United States and Canada. This outbreak is shaping up to be a nasty one, with the CDC reporting that thirteen people have been hospitalized, with one patient developing kidney failure. No deaths have been reported so far.

So far, CDC officials have been unable to track down the source of the lettuce that has been infected with E. coli bacteria. They are advising that all consumers refrain from eating any romaine lettuce, as no distributor or manufacturer has been identified. The warning includes “all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of pre-cut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.”

FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNN in a statement “The strain in 2017 is the same as the strain in this fall 2018 outbreak, and the time of year is exactly the same. So It’s likely associated with end of season harvest in California.” Thankfully, this year, the FDA is confident that the source of this outbreak stems from romaine lettuce. Gottlieb says “This year, we’re a month earlier, so we’re earlier in the process, earlier in the throes of an outbreak,” allowing health officials to get a head start on tracking down the source of the outbreak.

E. coli infection can cause a variety of nasty symptoms, including diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Children under 5 and adults older than 65 are especially vulnerable to E. coli infection due to their weakened immune systems. While most people recover after five to seven days, this particular strain of E. coli, O157:H7, is known to cause more severe illness.

If you were planning on whipping up a salad for your Thanksgiving meal tomorrow, it might be best to plan for a new side dish. The CDC is recommending a “better safe than sorry” policy when it comes to romaine lettuce for the time being. If you currently have lettuce stored in your refrigerator, be sure to throw it away, and sanitize any drawers or shelves where it was contained. Take action if you feel any symptoms of E. coli infection by talking to your healthcare provider and reporting your illness to the health department.

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