5 dead, nearly 200 sick in romaine E. coli outbreak

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While they have traced the toxic E. coli strain to the Yuma growing region, they are still looking for the precise source - whether it originated in the water supply, harvesting equipment, a processing plant in the area or somewhere else.

That brings the total death count from the recent E. coli outbreak to five.

"Most of the people who recently became ill ate romaine lettuce when lettuce from the Yuma [Arizona] growing region was likely still available in stores, restaurants, or in peoples' homes", the report said. The last harvest was collected on April 16, and because the lettuce only has a 21-day shelf life, it is highly unlikely that any lettuce covered by the advisory is still available.

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Four more deaths were reported from Arkansas (1), Minnesota (2), and NY (1). 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.

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

As of June 1, 89 people have been hospitalized by the outbreak, but a recall has not been announced for romaine lettuce.

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Symptoms, which begin about three to four days after consuming the bacteria, can include watery or bloody diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, according to the CDC. Of those three cases, two developed a potentially fatal condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome that sometimes leads to kidney failure.

The recent E. coli outbreak is the most severe to hit the USA since 2006, when three people died in an outbreak linked to uncooked spinach.

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