Let­tuce-linked E. coli out­break leads to 1 death in Cal­i­for­nia

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NATIONAL REPORT - By Mag­gie As­tor ——— Honolulu Star-Advertiser staff con­trib­uted to this re­port.

AT­LANTA >> An E. coli out­break linked to ro­maine let­tuce has turned deadly, with one per­son dy­ing in Cal­i­for­nia, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion said Wed­nes­day.

It was the first re­ported death in the out­break, which be­gan in March and has spread to 25 states. The Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Public Health con­firmed the death but would not pro­vide more de­tails, cit­ing pa­tient pri­vacy laws.

The CDC has recorded 121 cases na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing 52 that re­sulted in hos­pi­tal­iza­tion. Twenty-four cases have been re­ported in Cal­i­for­nia, more than in any other state.

The to­tal pro­vided on Wed­nes­day is up 23 cases from the CDC’s last up­date on April 27, and Ken­tucky, Mas­sachusetts and Utah re­ported their first cases. The new­est up­date in­cludes ill­nesses that be­gan as re­cently as April 21. It can take two to three weeks for E. coli in­fec­tions to be re­ported to the CDC, so the ac­tual case count may be higher.

(The Hawaii Depart­ment of Health said Wed­nes­day it is un­aware of any cases of E. coli in the is­lands re­lated to the out­break linked to let­tuce from Ari­zona.)

The ill­nesses ap­pear to stem from ro­maine let­tuce grown in the Yuma, Ariz., re­gion, and the CDC has warned restau­rants and con­sumers to avoid ro­maine un­less they can con­firm that it was grown in a dif­fer­ent re­gion. Some of the in­fec­tions have been linked to whole-head let­tuce from a spe­cific grower, Har­ri­son Farms. The re­main­der are linked to chopped, bagged let­tuce whose sup­plier, or sup­pli­ers, of­fi­cials have not con­clu­sively iden­ti­fied.

In late fall and win­ter, most bagged ro­maine comes from the Yuma grow­ing re­gion. But with win­ter over, pro­duc­tion is shift­ing to the Sali­nas Val­ley in Cal­i­for­nia.

Most strains of E. coli are harm­less, but cer­tain strains can cause ill­ness, and the strain in­volved in the cur­rent out­break is par­tic­u­larly vir­u­lent. The main symp­toms are stom­ach cramps, vom­it­ing and di­ar­rhea, of­ten bloody. In rare cases, pa­tients can de­velop a form of kid­ney fail­ure known as hemolytic ure­mic syn­drome.

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