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Romaine lettuce suspected as source of deadly E. coli strain

Published: Thursday, January 04, 2018 @ 10:45 PM

Since Nov. 15, 2017, a dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria has caused 17 people in 13 U.S.states, including Ohio, to fall ill, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CDC officials are still investigating, but officials say the likely cause of the outbreak is romaine lettuce.

One person has died and five people have been hospitalized of the cases occurring in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont and Washington, according to the CDC. 

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The particular strain of E. coli (O157:H7) produces a powerful toxin, which can cause severe illness and even death. 

While anyone can become infected, young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with a condition that weakens the immune system are at higher risk. 

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As of Dec. 28, 2017, Canadian health officials have reported 41 cases of the strain and linked the infections to romaine lettuce.

CDC officials have not confirmed the lettuce as the cause for the outbreak in the U.S., but local and public health officials are currently investigating what victims consumed, including greens and romaine lettuce, during the week their illness began, according to a CDC December press release. 

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"Even though we can't say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the U.S., a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that lettuce is almost always consumed raw," said James Rogers, Ph.D., director of Food Safety and Research at Consumer Reports. 

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CDC officials have said that because they have not identified a source they are unable to recommend whether residents should avoid a particular food. 

The investigation is ongoing. We will update this post as more information on the outbreaks becomes available.

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