5 Dead, 197 Ill in E. Coli Outbreak Linked to Romaine Lettuce
On Friday, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that an additional 25 people have become ill from eating romaine lettuce contaminated with E. coli. Since the beginning of the E. coli outbreak in March of this year, five people have died and 197 people have been ill.
About the Deadly E. Coli Outbreak
According to CNN, E. coli is a bacterium commonly found in the intestines of humans and other animals, where it usually causes no harm. Some strains can cause severe food poisoning, especially in old people and children.
The symptoms of E. coli generally occur about three to four days after a person first consumes the bacteria. The symptoms can include, but are not limited to watery or bloody diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting. The CDC reports that people generally get better within five to seven days after their symptoms begin.
Although there were 197 reports, only 187 of them had any information on what happened to the patients while they were sick. 48 percent of those that fell ill had been hospitalized, including 26 individuals who had developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.
Symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome include, fever, abdominal pain, fatigue, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor. Most people recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die.
FDA Joins E. Coli Investigation
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have also been investigating this outbreak alongside the CDC, and they believe that the probable cause for these outbreaks came from the winter growing areas in and around Yuma, Arizona.
The FDA stated that “The traceback investigation indicates that the illnesses associated with this outbreak cannot be explained by a single grower, harvester, processor, or distributor. While traceback continues, the FDA will focus on trying to identify factors that contributed to contamination of romaine across multiple supply chains.” The lettuce from this area is no longer available in stores, or restaurants.
This E. coli outbreak is the largest of its kind since the E. coli outbreak of 2006 where 199 people were reported to have been sick from consuming spinach. However, unlike spinach which is often cooked, romaine and lettuce are more common culprits in E. coli outbreaks because it’s eaten raw.
Tips to avoid E. coli
Here are a few helpful tips to avoid E. coli infections.
- Thoroughly cook all of your food especially meat
- Avoid unpasteurized dairy products and juices
- Do not swallow the water when swimming
- Wash your hands regularly
Statistics on E. coli E. coli infections
- Anywhere from 11 to 28 percent of the U.S. population is estimated to consume ground beef raw or uncooked.
- CDC counted at least 75 outbreaks associated with beef over the five-year period between 2009 and 2013. Of those, 35 percent were caused by E. coli.
- E. coli O157:H7, the pathogen most commonly associated with ground beef, causes an estimated 96,000 illnesses, 3,200 hospitalizations and 31 deaths in the U.S. each year.
- CDC tracked 391 E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks in the 10 years between 2003 and 2012. Between those outbreaks, the agency confirmed 4,930 cases of illness, with 1,274 (26 percent) hospitalizations, 300 (6 percent) cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and 34 deaths.
- Food is by far the most common source of E. coli O157:H7, accounting for 65 percent of cases. The other major sources of E. coli are animal contact (10 percent) and person-to-person transmission (10 percent).
- The most common food source for E. coli turns out to be beef, which has been implicated in 55 percent of E. coli outbreaks.
- CDC also tracked more E. coli outbreaks from 2003-2012 than in the previous 20 years.
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