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Five Dead, Nearly 200 Sickened in Romaine Lettuce Outbreak

06 June 2018

It was previously determined the E. coli came from contaminated romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma region of Arizona, not far from the Southern California border.

It had been thought chopped or bagged romaine was the cause, but an Alaskan prison reported several illnesses from whole-head lettuce.

The Food and Drug Administration have pinpointed the source of the E. coli contamination to farms in the Yuma, Arizona region.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in an update on Friday, nearly half of the 197 infected people have been hospitalized. Some people who became sick did not report eating romaine lettuce, but had close contact with someone else who got sick from eating romaine lettuce. The four other deaths were reported in Arkansas, Minnesota and NY, according to the CDC.

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"Eighty-nine people out of 187 with available information (48 percent) have been hospitalized, including 26 who developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome", the CDC said. Lettuce contaminated with E. coli was found to come from farms in the Yuma, Ariz., area, but farms in other parts of the country like the Richter's were not affected.

The update said: "Illnesses that occurred after May 6, 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".

Last month, the Canadian government announced six cases of illness caused by Escherichia coli with a "similar genetic fingerprint" to those reported in the United States.

The FDA said that the immediate risk was now gone. Officials are looking into the water supply, equipment, and processing facilities as possible sources of the outbreak.

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"It's a labor-intensive task".

While most E. coli bacteria are not harmful, it can produce toxins that lead to severe illness.

"It requires collecting and evaluating thousands of records; and trying to accurately reproduce how the contaminated lettuce moved through the food supply chain to grocery stores, restaurants and other locations where it was sold or served to the consumers who became ill".

"Most of the newly reported cases are people who became sick two to three weeks ago, still within the window when contaminated romaine was available for sale", the CDC said.

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Far more people have fallen sick to the infection, though.

Five Dead, Nearly 200 Sickened in Romaine Lettuce Outbreak