Five people die in U.S. romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak

Nora Nguyen
June 2, 2018

Five people in the United States have died after eating romaine lettuce that was contaminated with E. coli bacteria, whose source remains a mystery, officials said Friday.

Three reported illnesses in Texas have been linked to the multistate outbreak of a risky bacteria in romaine lettuce, according to the latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those three cases, two developed a potentially fatal condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome that sometimes leads to kidney failure. A total of 197 cases were reported across 35 states, and 89 of them required the patient to be hospitalized.

The U.S. Food And Drug Administration has said the harvest season for romaine lettuce is over. Health officials say it's unlikely that any contaminated lettuce is still in circulation due to its 21-day shelf life.

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The latest batch of illnesses are believed to be linked to romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona region. This is the worst multistate outbreak since 2006, when contaminated spinach was linked to 238 illnesses and five deaths. Deaths have been confirmed in Arkansas, California, Minnesota and NY with two of those deaths happening in Minnesota.

Almost half of those who became ill had to be hospitalized.

The reported strain of E. coli, which produces poisonous substances known as Shiga toxins, can cause severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. This takes an average of two to three weeks.

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Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical care immediately.

Complications are more common in young children under 5, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

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