E. coli outbreak linked to romaine appears to be over

Although the outbreak appears to be over the Public Health Agency of Canada says Canadians should 'always follow safe food handling tips for preparing lettuce.'

There is new information out on the deadly E. coli outbreak in the United States and Canada.

An announcement was made on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which revealed seven more reports of E. coli infections that have spread to two more states, Maryland and New Jersey, in the ongoing outbreak. Nine of those people have been hospitalized, two of whom are suffering from a form of kidney failure, notes CNN, and there has been one death.

While the outbreak does appear to be associated with leafy greens, according to CDC and FDA statements released yesterday, USA health officials have not confirmed a specific type, nor have any food recalls been issued. The food-safety experts at leading consumer advocacy group Consumer Reports advised avoiding romaine lettuce, any products with romaine in them, a warning reiterated on Wednesday evening. One person has also died in Canada.

In the USA, the FDA, which had not posted any public information about the outbreak until today, is assisting the CDC, but has virtually nothing to report. This percentage was not significantly higher than results from a survey of healthy people in which 46% reported eating romaine lettuce in the week before they were interviewed. Thus, CDC is not recommending that US residents avoid any particular food given the short shelf life of leafy greens and because a specific type of leafy greens has not been identified.

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Symptoms of E.coli usually start within three to 10 days after consumption.

In response to the statements made January 10 by US and Canadian health officials, a coalition of produce industry associations from both countries issued guidance related to the recent outbreak. Some individuals may develop a severe illness called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, which can be life-threatening, although most people recover in a few weeks. Canada identified romaine lettuce as the source of illnesses there, but the source of the romaine lettuce or where it became contaminated is unknown.

"Whole genome sequencing is being performed on samples of bacteria making people sick in the United States to give us information about whether these illnesses are related to the illnesses in Canada", the CDC said in a statement. The strain of E. coli involved in this outbreak, O157:H7, is particularly serious. Additionally, it's important to wash counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat to avoid contaminating other foods. The Public Health Agency of Canada began advising people in the five implicated provinces to consider not eating romaine until further notice. It urged the public to avoid eating romaine lettuce until more is known about the contamination.

In the meantime, we'll keep you posted on CDC and the FDAs findings of where the source of the latest E.coli outbreak is coming from.

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