E. Coli Outbreak News and Updates: Romaine Illness Hits Yet Another State

It's been nearly a month since it started.

It’s been nearly a month since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a multi-state E. coli (Escherichia coli) food poisoning outbreak linked to romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona, but the number of affected areas only seem to be expanding. As of May 2, 25 states were affected by the outbreak, and on Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Health announced that the Land of 10,000 Lakes has joined that list.

Food poisoning is fairly common in the U.S., with an estimated 48 million people sickened, 128,000 hospitalized, and 3,000 killed each year from food-borne illnesses, according to the CDC. But this particular outbreak involves one of the more dangerous strains of E. coli bacteria called O157:H7. This strain produces Shiga toxin, which can cause bloody diarrhea, cramps, and vomiting, as well as other complications that can be life-threatening. This is why it’s concerning that, as the Minnesota Department of Health announced Tuesday, the outbreak has been detected in yet another state.

E. coli O157:H7 is usually found in the intestines of animals and humans.


“Ten cases of E. coli O157 infection in Minnesota residents have recently been identified and linked to the multi-state outbreak. Illness onset dates range from April 20 through May 2,” reports the Minnesota Department of Health. “Three cases were hospitalized, and two developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially fatal complication that can include kidney failure and other severe problems.”

Fairly quickly, public health officials traced the outbreak to a particular crop of romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region in Arizona. As has been the case since the outbreak began in mid-April, officials continue to recommend that consumers don’t consume romaine lettuce from that region or really at all, unless they know where the lettuce came from. Sometimes illness cases take time to confirm and report, which could explain why the outbreak seems to be spreading, even after this much time has passed.

The FDA, which identified one farm as the source of the lettuce that caused the outbreak, reports that the lettuce has passed its shelf life and that the farm in question won’t be producing anymore lettuce this year, as the growing season is over. This means that hopefully the outbreak’s spread should be slowing down.

While a food-borne disease outbreak can seem scary, it’s relatively easy to protect yourself from exposure by avoiding the type of food that’s affected until the CDC announces that it’s safe again. In the meantime, have some kale!

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