8 Idahoans sick from E. coli in romaine lettuce

Idaho

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Chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, area is thought to be the source of the outbreak. | Courtesy BW Folsom/Shutterstock

(CNN & EastIdahoNews.com) — Chopped romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona, area is to blame for a multistate E. coli outbreak, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

“At this time, no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand has been identified,” the CDC said.

Eight Idaho residents have gotten E.coli infections after eating remaine lettuce in the 10 days before becoming sick, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said in a news release Friday. Three people were hospitalized, and two have developed kidney failure from the infection. All those hospitalized were adults between 20 and 55.

Nationally, 35 cases of E. coli illness in 11 states have been reported and linked to the outbreak so far. The earliest symptoms began on March 22. Twenty-two of the ill individuals have been hospitalized. Three of those patients developed a type of kidney failure associated with an E. coli illness called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of E. coli typically begin two to eight days after consuming the bacteria, although most patients become ill three or four days after consumption. Symptoms include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Most people recover in five to seven days. Those most at risk for E. coli illness include the very young, the very old and individuals with compromised immune systems.

This map shows the number of ill people by state of residence. | Courtesy CDC

Health officials warned the public to stay away from chopped romaine lettuce.

Restaurants and stores are advised not to serve or sell chopped romaine lettuce.

In addition, the agency recommends asking grocery stores and restaurants to confirm their chopped romaine is not from Yuma.

The advice is based on interviews with 28 of the ill individuals in which 93 percent of them reported consuming romaine lettuce within the week they began feeling sick.

“Most people reported eating a salad at a restaurant, and romaine lettuce was the only common ingredient identified among the salads eaten. The restaurants reported using bagged, chopped romaine lettuce to make salads,” according to the investigation report which also noted there are no reports involving whole heads or hearts of romaine.

The CDC and the US Food and Drug Administration are continuing to work with state and local health officials to further identify the source of the contaminated romaine.

“Public health officials in the Idaho Division of Public Health and multiple Idaho public health districts are continuing to work with the Food and Drug Administration and CDC to investigate the cause of the illnesses,” according to the Idaho news release. “Pre-chopped romaine lettuce is sold in restaurants, delis, supermarkets, and specialty food stores throughout Idaho. Public health officials advise people who have pre-chopped romaine lettuce from Yuma or an unknown source to throw it out, even if they have previously consumed the romaine without becoming ill.”

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