7 new cases in E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce

Romaine lettuce

Canadian health officials announced Wednesday that an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 infections (STEC O157:H7) appears to have ended.

"Illnesses started on dates from November 15 through December 12, 2017", the CDC reported today.

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) has been conducted on bacterial samples taken from ill persons in the United States.

Produce trade organizations issued a statement that, as of last week, no public health agency had contacted romaine lettuce growers or processors and asked to stop shipping product.

The report states that "The likely source of the outbreak in the United States appears to be leafy greens, but officials have not specifically identified a type of leafy greens eaten by people who became ill". The CDC said the likely source of the USA outbreak appears to be leafy greens, but it is not recommending Americans avoid any particular food at this time.

Still, the agency said it does not have enough information to recommend people in the US avoid a particular food. Romaine lettuce is mostly eaten raw and washing it or any produce tainted with E. coli will not remove the harmful bacteria. The five hospitalized are in the United States with the one death in the US and one in Canada.

In a January 8 letter to CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, DeLauro didn't mince words: "CDC's stunning lack of guidance to consumers regarding this outbreak is unconscionable".

Since it's better to be safe than sorry, many are advising that you should chuck any romaine lettuce you have lurking in the back of the fridge.

The agency also said the USA outbreak may soon be over. Neither the CDC nor Canadian health officials have provided any information on where the romaine lettuce potentially involved in the illnesses was grown or processed, so for now, consumers should assume that any romaine lettuce, even when sold in bags and packages, could possibly be contaminated, Rogers said. Because of these reporting delays, more time is needed before CDC can say the outbreak in the United Stated is over. Holidays can increase this delay. If you are concerned that you have an E. coli infection, talk to your healthcare provider.

The symptoms of E. coli infections include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea - often bloody and vomiting. Illnesses usually begin three to four days after eating food contaminated with this bacteria. In a December 21 update, it said it is so far investigating 41 cases from five provinces: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Don't buy romaine lettuce and don't use any still be at home until there is more information on the source of contamination.

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