Romaine lettuce likely cause of E coli illnesses, deaths in US, Canada

Escherichia coli bacteria magnified 7000 times PASIEKA  Getty Images  Science

Five of the patients have been hospitalised and one has died, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

An E. coli infections outbreak has been spreading across both Canada and the United States.

The CDC is conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the outbreak, and is looking at romaine "and other leafy greens", though according to Consumer Reports, the organization has confirmed that the strain of E. coli in the United States is "a virtual genetic match" with the Canadian strain.

The consumer advocacy group called on the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do more to warn people about the outbreak, which at last count had made 58 people sick in the US and Canada. The latest reports state 41 cases of infection in Canada, 17 of whom needed to be hospitalized and one of whom has died, while one individual has also died in the United States.

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For the time being, the CDC also recommends that consumers avoid romaine lettuce altogether. Romaine lettuce and other leafy greens are not, so they could be the reason behind the outbreak.

The toxin produced by E. coli 0157 can cause severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

So far, authorities in Canada have pointed to Romaine lettuce as the likely source of the infection, while authorities in the United States are still now conducting an investigation that includes interviewing the infected people to determine the meals they consumed in the week prior to the onset of the illness. This is actually turning a serious issue for which we all need to take some positive step and should follow the guidelines reported by the health officials. They are holding interviews to determine what the sick people ate the week before they got sick. "This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released as it becomes available". In the USA, government health officials are investigating the outbreaks, but have stopped short of recommending people avoid romaine lettuce or any other food.

Consumer Reports is now calling on the Food and Drug Administration and CDC to do more to warn the public about the dangers of the outbreak. Elderly individuals and those with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of getting sick if infected with E. coli, an intestinal bacteria found in animal or human feces. Five people in the US received hospital care, and one has died, according to CDC.

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