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. The death, in California, is the first known fatality from this outbreak.
The CDC also reported 23 additional cases of illness, bringing the total to 121 since the outbreak began in March. The most recent illnesses reported began experiencing symptoms April 21.
Symptoms of E. coli begin on average three to four days after consuming the bacteria. They include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Most people recover in five to seven days. Some individuals may develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can be life-threatening, although most people recover in a few weeks.
Nearly half of those reporting illness, 52, have been hospitalized, which is a higher-than-usual hospitalization rate. In addition, 14 of the hospitalized patients have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome.
Last week, the CDC said the strain identified in this outbreak is particularly virulent and known to be associated with higher hospitalization and complication rates.
Kentucky, Massachusetts and Utah are the latest states to report illnesses, bringing the total number of states affected to 25.
Health officials are continuing to investigate the outbreak but have not identified a single grower, farm, manufacturer, supplier or brand as the source of the E. coli contamination. However, the US Food and Drug Administration identified Harrison Farms in Yuma as the grower of the whole heads of romaine that caused illness in eight inmates at a correctional facility in Nome, Alaska.
The growing season at that farm has ended, and the shelf life of the lettuce from there has passed. Therefore, it is not being sold or served anymore.
As the investigation continued, the CDC repeated its advice to the public: “Do not serve or sell any romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region. This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, baby romaine, organic romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce. Restaurants and retailers should ask their suppliers about the source of their romaine lettuce.”