E Coli Outbreak Spreads to 15 States; Leafy Greens Suspected

Saturday, 13 Jan, 2018

The E. coli outbreak we've been tracking for you is growing this week.

In the United States, CDC, several states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continue to investigate a multistate outbreak of 24 STEC O157:H7 infections in 15 states. Canadian health officials identified contaminated romaine as the source of the outbreak, and officials matched the DNA of an E. Coli strain found in the U.S.to that in Canada.

The Public Health Agency of Canada identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak in Canada.

MI is on that list.

By Dec. 28, there were more than 40 cases under investigation in Canada and one reported death. Thus Canadian officials declared the outbreak over earlier this week, and American officials followed suit, though public health officials are still urging people to avoid romaine. Leafy greens, including romaine lettuce, were the cause of outbreaks from E. coli 0157:H7 in 2006, 2011, 2012, and 2013. But infection with the O157 strain, which produces a shiga toxin, can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

Lettuce can become tainted by E. coli when it comes in contact with the feces of cows, pigs and other animals.

In the United States, a total of 24 STEC O157:H7 infections have been reported from California (4), CT (2), IL (1), IN (2), Maryland (3), MI (1), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (2), New Jersey (1), NY (1), OH (1), Pennsylvania (2), Vermont (1), Virginia (1), and Washington (1).

It's believed leafy greens are the likely source, but the CDC isn't singling out a certain one, and won't recommend avoiding any particular food. It waited until December 28 to send out a news release regarding the infections, although the first known cases occurred as early as mid-November. While the CDC refuses to make a similar warning, it does offer this advice for limiting the spread of E. coli: "You can protect yourself by washing your hands thoroughly before and after preparing or eating food". Ill people also reported eating different types and brands of romaine lettuce.