28 April, 2018
Every winter, the Yuma region provides most of the romaine sold in the U.S.
Dr. Scott Lindquist, state epidemiologist for communicable disease, emphasized the severity of this particular strain of E. coli and that people should seek medical help if they notice symptoms including bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and vomiting. Forty-six people have been hospitalized, including 10 with kidney failure, which is an unusually high number of hospitalizations.
No deaths have been reported in this outbreak.
Three more states - Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wisconsin - reported people falling sick.
Along with the 14 new cases announced today, the CDC said 3 more people have be hospitalized, raising that total to 46. The most recent case involved a person becoming sick April 20, but the CDC notes that sicknesses since April 5 may not have been reported yet to authorities.
The CDC emphasized that although the other 90 cases of illness are linked to the eight in Alaska, those 90 are from chopped bagged lettuce, and that contamination source remains a mystery.
"E. coli and things like that are normally caused by fault production and not having clean facilities for washing your produce", said Jeb Bush, Forsyth Farmer's Market. Experts have not located the farm or farms responsible for the majority of cases, and don't know if the contamination occurred during the harvesting, packaging, or distribution of the lettuce. "Most people reported eating a salad at a restaurant, and romaine lettuce was the only common ingredient identified among the salads eaten". Harris said the farm's romaine season is over, and it is now growing grass.
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"This advice includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, baby romaine, organic romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce".
The E. coli spreading through the states is "toxin-producing", the CDC states - specifically a toxin known as Shiga.
Three major grocery store chains in Berks County - Giant Food Stores, Weis Markets and Redner's Markets - said they get their romaine from suppliers in California and Florida, so their lettuce is safe.
"We haven't been able to guarantee that there's no product coming out of Yuma at this point", added Stic Harris of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration during a briefing for reporters. The 16-year-old from rural Sacramento had been eating salad every day the week before she got sick.
The agency also warned restaurants not to serve romaine lettuce to customers.
The outbreak first began in April.