E Coli Outbreak Spreads to 15 States; Leafy Greens Suspected

Leslie Hanson
January 13, 2018

What are Shiga toxin-producing E. coli?

"The risk to Canadians has returned to low and the Public Health Agency of Canada is no longer advising individuals in affected provinces to consider consuming other types of lettuce, instead of romaine lettuce", published on its website Wednesday evening. It also killed one person in the US and one in Canada.

Consumer Reports has pointed to romaine lettuce as the likely source of the outbreak, however, the CDC cautions that its investigation is ongoing. Based on this information, USA health officials concluded that ill people in this outbreak were not more likely than healthy people to have eaten romaine lettuce.

The outbreak of E. coli O157 was declared in December after several reports of illness in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec. Investigators identified romaine lettuce as the source of the E. coli infections, but still have not determined the cause of the contamination. Early symptoms of an infection include bloody diarrhea, fever, nausea and vomiting, with later symptoms including excessive bleeding, nosebleeds, seizures and shortness of breath. Romaine lettuce tainted with E. Coli is believed to have sickened 66 people in North America, including MI. It can also be spread via birds and rodents who may spread the infected fecal matter across farms.

In the United States, a total of 24 STEC O157:H7 infections have been reported from California (4), CT (2), IL (1), IN (2), Maryland (3), MI (1), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (2), New Jersey (1), NY (1), OH (1), Pennsylvania (2), Vermont (1), Virginia (1), and Washington (1).

It's believed leafy greens are the likely source, but the CDC isn't singling out a certain one, and won't recommend avoiding any particular food. Ill people also reported eating different types and brands of romaine lettuce. You can also wash counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat to avoid contaminating other foods.

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