Romaine lettuce linked to outbreak of E. coli in 13 states

Romaine lettuce is likely behind nearly 60 illnesses so far

Health officials confirm there have not been any cases reported on P.E.I., but according to the latest national update from the Public Health Agency of Canada, there are 41 reported cases of the illness in Canada and another 16 in the U.S. The outbreak has affected people in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

The illnesses were reported in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont and Washington.

Outbreaks possibly related to leafy greens are a challenge, no matter what, Williams said, because it can take 3 weeks to a month for a patient's illness to be identified as part of an outbreak, and it can be hard for people to remember the details of what they ate that far back. There has also been one death reported in Canada.

Until a food source in the U.S. outbreak has identified, food safety experts quoted in a Consumer Reports story yesterday advised consumers to temporarily avoid romaine lettuce.

Whole-genome sequencing comparing the isolates from Canada and the United States has shown that the same strain is involved and that a common food source probably the source, Williams said. Two people have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure. America's onsets appear concentrated between the end of November and the start of December, but, again, authorities aren't sure what exactly is infected, so they can't say that the threat is contained.

Even though USA authorities can't say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce caused the outbreak, Consumer Reports urged a "greater degree of caution", about the lettuce because it's usually consumed raw.




"The available data strongly suggest that romaine lettuce is the source of the US outbreak".

He said the longer it takes to pin down the source of adulteration, the more hard it will become over time, given that romaine is a perishable item.

The CDC is aware of 17 infections right now in 13 states - a group that runs the geographic gamut from the West Coast, though the Rust Belt, to the top of New England.

Williams explained that with cases "spread out all over the place" and people having to report what they ate, in many cases over a month ago, it's been hard to identify the source in Canada and the US.

Young children, elderly people, and those with a weakened immune system from a condition such as cancer or diabetes face the greatest risk of becoming seriously ill from E. coli.

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