CDC: E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce spreading

This 2002 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the kind of listeria bacteria that is behind some food poisoning outbreaks

The outbreak has been blamed on E. coli bacteria in romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona.

While chopped romaine sold either alone or in mixed salads was originally thought to be the culprit, last week the warning was expanded to include all types of romaine - chopped, whole heads and hearts of romaine, organic and baby romaine, and any salads or mixed salads that contain romaine.

So far, 98 people from 22 states have been sickened in the outbreak, including 10 who developed a life-threatening type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.

An outbreak of E. coli bacteria in romaine lettuce has nearly doubled in size over the past week, sickening 98 people in 22 states, USA health officials said on Friday.

The most recent illness started on April 20.

Officials say they can't be certain the outbreak is over and they expect more reports of illnesses because there is a 2-3 week delay in verifying that an illness was caused by E. coli.

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"Most of the illnesses linked to the Romaine outbreak are not linked to the Romaine lettuce from (the Yuma) farm".

And while the tainted romaine lettuce is thought to have originated from the Yuma region, "product labels often do not identify growing regions; so throw out any romaine lettuce if you're uncertain about where it was grown", the agency said in its warning.

New cases were reported in the last few days in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wisconsin - three states that had previously been unaffected, according to the CDC. Officials suspect cattle contaminated a nearby stream, and wild pigs roaming the area spread it to fields.

A manager at Papillion's Chick-fil-A said the restaurant pulled romaine lettuce, too; it used spring mix as a replacement until corporate offices cleared its California distributor. "There also were wild pigs running back and forth".

The reported strain of E. coli, which produces poisonous substances known as Shiga toxins, can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhoea and vomiting. Most people recover in a week, but some can be hospitalized with more serious health problems and take longer to recover.

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