The number of people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli from eating contaminated romaine lettuce has doubled over the past week and one person from California has died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Tuesday, 121 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from 25 states. Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 13 to April 21. Ill people range in age from 1 to 88 years, with a median age of 29. Sixty-three percent of ill people are female. Of 102 people with information available, 52 have been hospitalized, including 14 people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.
Health officials have tied the E. coli outbreak to romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona, which provides most of the romaine sold in the U.S. during the winter.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending consumers do not eat or buy romaine lettuce unless they can confirm it did not from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.
“This advice includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, baby romaine, organic romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce. If you do not know if the lettuce in a salad mix is romaine, do not eat it,” states the CDC on its E. coli 0157:H7outbreak webpage.
According to the CDC, people usually get sick from toxin-producing E. coli two to eight days after swallowing the germ. Signs and symptoms of the illness include diarrhea that can be bloody, severe stomach cramps and vomiting.
Most people infected with E. coli, recover within one week, however, some infections can be severe or life-threatening. Some people with an E. coli infection may get a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS can occur in people of any age but is most common in children younger than 5 years, adults aged 65 years and older, and people with weakened immune systems. HUS develops about 7 days after symptoms first appear, when diarrhea is improving. Clues that someone is developing HUS include decreased frequency of urination, feeling very tired and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids.
People with HUS should be hospitalized because their kidneys may stop working and they may develop other serious problems. Most people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die.