Federal health officials say a three-month outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce is finally over.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the contaminated lettuce, which was grown in Salinas, California, is ‘no longer available for sale.’
A total of 167 people were sickened across 27 states with the strain O157:H7.
It’s the same strain tied to previous outbreaks, including the one that led to the illnesses of 59 people around Thanksgiving 2018.
Eighty-five people affected by the current outbreak were hospitalized, and 15 of those developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome – but no deaths were reported.
The CDC says an outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce grown in Salinas, California, is over after 167 people fell in 27 states and 85 people were hospitalized – 15 with a type of kidney failure (file image)
Illnesses related to the current outbreak began on September 20, 2019 with the most recent occurring on December 21.
The states where cases have been identified include Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Those who fell sick range in age from less than a year old to 89 years old.
Of 113 people interviewed, 83 percent said they ate romaine lettuce sometime during the week preceding their first symptoms.
After testing two pre-packaged salads – one found in each of the homes of a Maryland resident and a Wisconsin resident who fell ill from E. coli – the CDC determined that these, too, contained lettuce grown in Salinas.
While officials have pinpointed the geographic source of the bacteria, the agency is still working with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Department of Public Health to determine whether the water, soil and/or compost or something else is responsible for the outbreak.
‘Our investigation is ongoing, and we are doing everything possible to find the source or sources of contamination,’ said Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response at the Food and Drug Administration in a statement.
‘The investigation into how this contamination occurred is important, so romaine growers can implement measures that will prevent future contamination and illnesses.’
Most strains of E. coli are harmless but a few, particularly E. coli O157:H7, can cause severe infections.
According to the Mayo Clinic, O157:H7 produces a powerful toxin, called Shiga toxin, which damages the lining of the small intestine.
Infections occur from coming into cont =act with the feces of humans or animals or eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water.
Symptoms typically include bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting that generally last five to seven days.
The CDC estimates that E. coli O157:H7 causes 265,000 illness, 3,600 hospitalizations and 30 deaths in the US annually.
Most people can recover without treatment, although there are cases in which people develop hemolytic uremic syndrome.
This is a condition in which there is an abnormal destruction of blood platelets and red blood cells.
The damaged blood cells can clog the kidney’s filtering system, resulting in life-threatening kidney failure, according to the Mayo Clinic.
O157:H7 is the same strain that sickened at least 59 people in 15 states after they ate romaine lettuce from California last fall.