The source of a springtime food poisoning outbreak has been found

CDC E. coli Outbreak Over Tainted Irrigation Water Appears to be Source

The latest tally from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 96 people were hospitalized, including 27 who developed a type of severe kidney failure that can be life-threatening to people with weak immune systems, such as young children and the elderly.

During the outbreak five people died and more than 200-people in 36 states became sick. According to the Food and Drug Adminitsration (FDA), the last shipments of romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region were harvested on April 16, 2018, and the harvest season there has ended.

Further investigation discovered the outbreak strain of E. coli bacteria in an irrigation canal in the Yuma area, officials said Thursday.

This was the largest E. coli food poisoning outbreak in the U.S.in more than a decade. "(Whole genome sequencing) showed that the E. Coli O157:H7 found in the canal water is closely related genetically to the E. coli O157:H7 from ill people.

Officials tied that 2006 outbreak to a contaminated stream. They are still investigating how the bacteria got into the canal and whether there was contamination elsewhere.

In this latest outbreak, the vaccine was given to more than 3,200 people, including front-line health care workers, and family members and friends who had contact with known Ebola victims.

Alarm over the outbreak was relaxed somewhat in late May, after regulators confirmed that the harvesting season for romaine in Yuma had passed, and that the main US source for romaine had shifted to California's Salinas Valley. Laboratory testing for other environmental samples is continuing.

Water turned out to be the culprit behind the wave of E. coli illness in spring. And yes, the romaine lettuce you buy at the store or pile on your plate at the salad bar now is safe to eat.

"We, along with our partners, will continue to assess these findings, their meanings, and determine what additional efforts may help us better understand this outbreak", says Scott Gottlieb, M.D., FDA commissioner.

"The answer to that question is that we don't believe we are seeing more outbreaks", Gottlieb said.

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