Tainted romaine lettuce blamed for four more deaths

Grant Boone
June 4, 2018

In an update Friday, health officials said 25 more cases raised the total to 197 illnesses in 35 states.

The outbreak is over and romaine lettuce is no longer on the warning list, but reports of cases in three more states have come in, the CDC said. Of 187 people with information available, 89 (48 percent) have been hospitalized, including 26 people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

The US Food and Drug Administration, which is investigating the outbreak alongside the CDC, believes that the probable link to all these illnesses is romaine lettuce sourced from the winter growing areas in and around the Yuma growing region in Arizona.

According to an FDA blog post, "Any contaminated product from the Yuma growing region has already worked its way through the food supply and is no longer available for consumption".

This is the largest outbreak of its kind since a deadly E. coli outbreak in 2006 that was linked to spinach.

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Brendan Flaherty, a lawyer who is representing clients sickened in this outbreak, said, "Given the high number of hospitalizations, HUS cases, and deaths in this outbreak, consumers should continue to ask where the romaine lettuce they are buying comes from". In a June 1 advisory, the agency said that four additional deaths were reported in Arkansas, North Carolina and NY in addition to the original death in California.

Usually, illness sets in "an average of three to four days after swallowing the germ".

Complications are more common in young children under 5, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical care immediately. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature outside is above 90°F. Also avoid cross contamination while cooking, such as letting utensils that came into contact with raw meat touch other parts of a meal.

Wash cutting boards, countertops, and utensils with hot, soapy water before and after preparing fruits and vegetables.

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