CDC warns consumers to not eat any romaine lettuce

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After more than 30 people were hospitalized in 16 states, the CDC is issuing a serious new warning today about an E. coli outbreak. The prior warnings had only applied to chopped romaine by itself or as part of salads and salad mixes. Consumers are also being told not to buy or eat romaine lettuce at a grocery store or restaurant unless you can confirm it wasn't grown in the Yuma, Arizona region.

"Illnesses that occurred after March 29, 2018, might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported", the CDC said. There are no reported deaths as of Friday at 4 p.m. EDT.

The heads of romaine lettuce each ate where all traced back to the Yuma region.

Media reports indicate Safeway had pulled romaine lettuce from shelves in OR and replaced it with safe product. "It is not realistic to expect consumers to ask restaurant servers where the lettuce in that Caesar salad comes from, nor is it likely that they would know", said Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports. Even if someone has already eaten some and not gotten sick, the lettuce should still be thrown away to be on the safe side, as USA Today notes.

The 16 states that have recorded cases of the outbreak include Washington, Idaho, Montana, California, Arizona, Alaska, Louisiana, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Virginia. Most recover within one week but there is a chance of kidney failure.

Symptoms of E. coli infection include diarrhea, severe stomach cramps and vomiting. Five people have developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.

As of Wednesday, the hospitalization rate for this outbreak was about 58 per cent, much higher than the 30 per cent normally associated with infections involving E. coli O157: H7, according to a CDC update sent to clinicians on Thursday.

People usually get sick from Shiga toxin-producing E. coli 2 to 8 days after swallowing the germ. On Friday, April 19, the CDC said more people had been infected in Alaska. The bacteria can be spread by contaminated water, animal manure or in undercooked beef.

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