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E Coli Outbreak Spreads to 15 States; Leafy Greens Suspected

12 January 2018

The deadly E. coli O157:H7 HUS outbreak in the United States that is associated with leafy greens and may be linked to romaine lettuce has been updated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the agency says there have been no reports of illness since December 12.

Canada pointed to romaine lettuce as the source of its outbreak. Investigators identified romaine lettuce as the source of the E. coli infections, but still have not determined the cause of the contamination. Leafy greens typically have a short shelf life, and since the last illness started a month ago, it is likely that contaminated leafy greens linked to this outbreak are no longer available for sale. Because CDC has not identified a specific type of leafy greens linked to the USA infections, and because of the short shelf life of leafy greens, CDC is not recommending that US residents avoid any particular food at this time. Romaine lettuce is mostly eaten raw and washing it or any produce tainted with E. coli will not remove the harmful bacteria.

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By Dec. 28, there were more than 40 cases under investigation in Canada and one reported death.

No common supplier distributor, or retailer of leafy greens has been identified as a possible source of this outbreak. The CDC, fifteen states, and the FDA are investigating the outbreak. Five, or 56%, of nine ill persons said they ate romaine lettuce. Illness onsets among reported cases occurred in late Nov & early Dec, so the source of these cases likely is no longer on the market. 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.

In her letter, the Democrat asked CDC to clarify the coordination between Canada and the US health authorities on the outbreak, and report any information CDC may have on "implicated suppliers, distributors or retailers".

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To protect against E. coli infection, health officials say people should thoroughly wash their hands, as well as counters, cutting boards and utensils.

Symptoms of E.coli usually start within three to 10 days after consumption. It's also important to avoid preparing food when you are sick, particularly if you are sick with diarrhea.

There were 42 cases in five eastern provinces: Ontario (eight), Quebec (15), New Brunswick (five), Nova Scotia (one) and Newfoundland and Labrador (13).

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E Coli Outbreak Spreads to 15 States; Leafy Greens Suspected