5 dead, almost 200 sickened in romaine lettuce 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. It is unlikely that any romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region is still available in people's homes, stores, or restaurants due to its 21-day shelf life.

In an update Friday, health officials said 25 more cases raised the total to 197 illnesses in 35 states, including MI.

The US Food and Drug Administration, which is investigating the outbreak alongside the CDC, believes that the probable link to all these illnesses is romaine lettuce sourced from the winter growing areas in and around the Yuma growing region in Arizona.

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Three more states have reported ill people: Arkansas, North Carolina, and Oklahoma. On Friday, health officials said they have learned of four more - another in California as well as one each in Arkansas, Minnesota and NY. Of 187 people with information available, 89 (48 percent) have been hospitalized, including 26 people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

Numerous new cases were people who became ill two to three weeks ago, when contaminated lettuce was still being sold. Some said they did not eat romaine lettuce but were in close contact with someone who got sick after eating it.

The reported strain of E. coli, which produces poisonous substances known as Shiga toxins, can cause severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Most people recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die.

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