Risky E.coli Outbreak In Romaine Intensifies

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" We have lots of lines of proof recommending to us today that of these health problems are linked in some way through romaine grown in the Yuma area [of Arizona]", Matthew Wise, the CDC deputy branch chief for Outbreak Response, stated throughout a Friday news rundown.

So far, illnesses include 18 cases in Pennsylvania, 16 cases in California, 10 in Idaho, eight cases each in Alaska and Montana, seven in New Jersey, five cases each in Arizona and Washington, three cases each in MI and OH, two cases each in Colorado, Connecticut and NY, and a single case each in Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.

An additional 31 people have now fallen ill from eating lettuce traced to Yuma, Arizona, bringing the total to 84.

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"CDC laboratory testing has confirmed that the strain of Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O157:H7 causing this outbreak produces a type of toxin that tends to cause more severe illness, which may explain why there is a high hospitalization rate", the agency said in an outbreak investigation update Friday.

No deaths have been reported, but in Pennsylvania, eight people have been hospitalized and one developed the kidney condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome, the state Department of Health reported.

The national E. coli outbreak that has been linked to contaminated romaine lettuce has worsened, as more than 30 new cases have been reported. "It's about E. coli and anyone who consumes it can get really sick". Most people recover in a week, but some can be hospitalized with more serious health problems and take longer to recover. Most people can prevent E.coli by properly handling food and practicing good hygiene. "We also saw severe illness in that outbreak", Wise said.

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Despite the new development, federal officials said their advice to consumers hasn't changed: Avoid all romaine, unless they can confirm that it didn't come from the Yuma growing region. This outbreak has sent at least 98 people across the U.S.to the hospital, including an Atlanta teen who officials say ate salads from restaurants and bagged romaine lettuce. Harris said the farm's romaine season is over, and it is now growing grass. "We'd like to emphasize that most of the illnesses in this outbreak are not linked to this particular farm", Harris said. However, they have identified Harrison Farms in Yuma as the grower of the whole heads of romaine that caused illness in eight inmates at a correctional facility in Nome, Alaska.

The CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and states are investigating the outbreak, which began March 13.

"When I look at a bag of lettuce and it says product of the United States of America, do I know it's from Yuma?" A number of chain restaurants like Panera Bread and Chipotle have pulled their menu items with romaine lettuce.

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