Federal health officials are still searching for the exact source of a Romaine lettuce E.coli outbreak, which has sickened at least 98 people across more than a dozen states, and appears to involve a more virulent strain than usual, with nearly half of all reported cases resulting in hospitalization.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an updated case count for individuals impacted by the Romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak this morning, indicating that the outbreak has resulted in at least 46 hospitalizations, with cases reported in 22 different states.
All of the E. coli hospitalizations have involved a strain that has been linked to romaine lettuce grown and distributed from the Yuma, Arizona region.
The investigation is still ongoing by the CDC and the Food Service Inspection Service (FSIS) to determine a common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce causing for the outbreak. However, the agency is warning consumers to not eat or buy any romaine lettuce, unless they can confirm it is not from the Yuma, Arizona area.
Since the last update on April 18, the number of confirmed cases have nearly doubled, and illnesses were identified in an additional six states.
Of the 46 hospitalizations due to E. coli, the CDC reports that at least 10 people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious type of kidney failure linked to food poisoning.
The CDC notes that the rate of hospitalizations appears to be higher than usual in this particular outbreak.
States that have reported illnesses include Alaska, Arizon, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia and Washington.
The strain of E. coli STEC O26 is a foodborne bacteria that causes mild to severe diarrhea and abdominal cramps, bloody stools, and sometimes minor fevers lasting between 5 and 10 days. For individuals like young children, the sick and the elderly, the consequences may be more severe due to weakened immune systems, potentially resulting in the infection causing a serious condition known as Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), which may lead to kidney failure or even death.
The CDC estimates that roughly 48 million Americans are sickened by foodborne illnesses each year, causing around 130,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Foodborne illnesses, E. coli especially are easily transmitted by consuming, touching, drinking, or by some sort of physical transfer of the bacteria.