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Romaine Lettuce

Romaine Lettuce E. coli Outbreak – Update May 3, 2018

The E. coli (Escherichia coli) foodborne Illness outbreak associated with contaminated romaine lettuce was reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention beginning March 22, 2018. This strain of E. coli is scientifically labelled E. coli 0157:H7. E.coli is naturally found in the intestinal tracts of many farm animals, including healthy cattle, sheep, and goats. When people become contaminated with E.coli, the bacteria produces a toxin known as Shiga-toxin in their intestinal tract.

The symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing (STEC) E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. If there is fever, it is usually not very high (less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit /less than 38.5 degrees Celsius). Most people get better within 5–7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.

Around 5–10 percent of those who are diagnosed with STEC infection develop a potentially life-threatening complication, known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor. Most people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die. People who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately. Persons with HUS should be hospitalized because their kidneys may stop working (acute renal failure), but they may also develop other serious problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, and neurologic problems.

As of May 3, 2018, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the following updates:

121 people in 25 states have become ill. These people reported becoming ill in the time period of March 13, 2018 to April 21, 2018. There have been 52 hospitalizations and one death

The investigation is ongoing, and CDC will provide updates when more information is available.

Romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region could be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and could make people sick.

Do not eat or buy romaine lettuce unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region.

Product labels often do not identify growing regions; so, do not eat or buy romaine lettuce if you do not know where it was grown.

This advice includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, baby romaine, organic romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce. If you do not know if the lettuce in a salad mix is romaine, do not eat it.

Take action if you have symptoms of an E. coli infection:

Talk to your healthcare provider.

Write down what you ate in the week before you started to get sick.

Report your illness to the Nassau County Health Department (904)530-6800.

Assist public health investigators by answering questions about your illness.

Follow these general ways to prevent E. coli infection:

Wash your hands. Wash hands after using the restroom or changing diapers, before and after preparing or eating food, and after contact with animals.

Don’t prepare food or drink for others when you are sick.

Cook meats thoroughly to kill harmful germs. Cook steaks and roasts to at least 145˚F and let rest for 3 minutes after you remove meat from the grill or stove. Cook ground beef and pork to at least 160˚F. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the meat.

Don’t cross-contaminate food preparation areas. Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat.

Wash fruits and vegetables before eating, unless the package says the contents have been washed.

Avoid raw milk, other unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices.