Coli outbreak; source of romaine still a mystery

Coli outbreak; source of romaine still a mystery

One person has died due to an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The growing season in Yuma ended about a month ago, said the University of Arizona's Russell Engel, the director of Yuma County's cooperative extension service.

The unusually high hospitalization rate of 51 percent shows the outbreak strain of E. coli O157: H7 is particularly unsafe.

"This E. Coli strain can, in immunocompromised people or in little children cause a complication called Hemolytic-uremic syndrome and that is what we're anxious about because that causes kidney failure and long-term damage", says Dr. Baruch Fertel from Cleveland Clinic.

Most E. coli bacteria are not harmful, but some produce toxins that can cause severe illness.

He says that neither antibiotics nor anti-diarrheal medications are recommended for treatment because both could potentially lead to increased complications with the kidneys.

The outbreak is the largest in the United States since 2006, when spinach tainted with a similar strain of E. coli sickened more than 200 people. Most people recover in five to seven days. Investigators continue to look for the source of the implicated romaine, as well as how it became contaminated. "Restaurants and retailers should ask their suppliers about the source of their romaine lettuce".

Three more states - Kentucky, Massachusetts and Utah- have reported cases, the CDC said in an email. This includes romaine in any form, including in a salad mix. As of the update Wednesday, the illness onset dates for the outbreak victims range from March 13 to April 21.

The government said it had reports of 121 people who got sick in 25 states.