Coli Outbreak Linked to Romaine Lettuce Claims Its First Fatality

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One person has died from the E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

In the United States, romaine harvesting usually shifts north to California at this time of year, but federal officials have said they can't guarantee there are no more products now coming out of the Yuma growing region.

Laboratory testing in April determined that the strain of deadly E. coli behind the outbreak, known as O157:H7, produces a toxin known to cause more severe illness, which could explain the high hospitalization rate, the CDC said.

In the new outbreak, the investigation revealed that several people in an Alaska correctional facility who became sick had consumed romaine lettuce sourced from Harrison Farms of Yuma, Arizona.

According to McCullough, individuals who ate romaine lettuce and are experiencing diarrhea should contact their health care provider. The most recent case was April 21. Pennsylvania has reported 20 cases, and Idaho 11; no other state has reported more than eight. CDC's warning applies to whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, baby romaine, organic romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce.

The CDC reiterated its advice of not eating or buying romaine lettuce, normally used in salads, unless the source of the lettuce can be confirmed.

That's 23 more people and three more states - with Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Utah joining the ever-expanding list - than numbers that were announced last Friday.

Why is lettuce so often the culprit in illness outbreaks linked to the bacteria E. coli?

But how exactly does E. coli kill? "Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of an E. coli infection and report your illness to your local health department". This strain of E. coli is especially virulent, hospitalizing 43% of those infected.

The outbreak is the worst of its kind since 2006, when about 200 people were sickened by contaminated spinach from the Salinas Valley, the CDC said.

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