5 dead, almost 200 sickened in romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak

The outbreak of E. coli infections linked to romaine lettuce killed five people and sickened 197 across 35 states, a new Center for Disease Control report says.

Four more people have died as a result of the E. coli outbreak tied to romaine lettuce, bringing the total to five deaths, health officials reported Friday.

Numerous new cases were people who became ill two to three weeks ago, when contaminated lettuce was still being sold.

The CDC has not pinpointed the exact source of the outbreak, but the lettuce appears to have been contaminated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7, a particularly unsafe strain of the bacteria.

Most new cases involve people who became sick two or three weeks ago, when the tainted lettuce was still available for sale.

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However, the investigation continues and the US Food and Drug Administration has said "the illnesses associated with this outbreak can not be explained by a single grower, harvester, processor, or distributor".

In the update Friday on the nation's largest E. coli outbreak in a decade, health officials said 25 new cases have been added, and at least 89 people were hospitalized.

The patients who died were from Arkansas, California, Minnesota and NY. On Friday, health officials said they had learned of four more - one in Arkansas, one in NY, and two in Minnesota. Of those three cases, two developed a potentially fatal condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome that sometimes leads to kidney failure.

Romaine lettuce grown in the Arizona region was last harvested in mid-April.

Symptoms include diarrhea, which can be bloody, severe stomach cramps and vomiting.

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