ST. GEORGE — An outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce has continued to sicken people in an increasing number of states throughout the country.
As of Wednesday, 53 people have been confirmed to be infected with the outbreak strain of the bacterial disease in 16 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The outbreak has been linked to lettuce originating from a growing region in Arizona and was previously thought to involve only pre-chopped romaine lettuce.
Based on new information, the CDC is expanding its warning to consumers to cover all types of romaine lettuce originating from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region. This warning now includes whole heads and hearts of romaine lettuce, in addition to chopped romaine and salads and salad mixes containing romaine.
“The expanded warning is based on information from newly reported illnesses in Alaska,” the CDC said in an advisory. “Ill people in Alaska reported eating lettuce from whole heads of romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.”
The CDC is advising consumers not to buy or eat romaine lettuce from a grocery store or restaurant unless the store can confirm it is not from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region.
No deaths have been reported, but 31 people have been hospitalized as a result of the condition, some with serious conditions.
No cases have been reported in Utah so far, but five western states have reported people being sick with the infection, including 10 in Idaho, six in Montana, three in Arizona, one in California and one in Washington.
The strain of E. coli in the outbreak, E. coli O157:H7, usually causes people to get sick 2-8 days after swallowing the germ.
Most people who become sick after being infected with E. coli develop diarrhea (often bloody), severe stomach cramps and vomiting.
While most people recover within one week, some illnesses last longer and can be more severe, resulting in a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. Five of those infected by the current outbreak have developed the syndrome.
The syndrome can occur in people of any age but is most common in young children under 5 years of age, older adults and people with weakened immune systems. Symptoms can include fever, abdominal pain, pale skin tone, fatigue and irritability, small, unexplained bruises or bleeding from the nose and mouth and decreased urination.
People who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.
The CDC is advising consumers anywhere in the U.S. who have any store-bought romaine lettuce at home not to eat it and to throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.
“Product labels often do not identify growing regions; so, throw out any romaine lettuce if you’re uncertain about where it was grown,” the CDC stated. “This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce. If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.”
Before purchasing romaine lettuce at a grocery store or eating it at a restaurant, consumers should confirm with the store that it is not from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region. If the source of the romaine lettuce can’t be confirmed, it should not be purchased or eaten.
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