Romaine Lettuce E. Coli Outbreak Becomes Deadly

In April 2018, US authorities took the unusual step of telling people to throw out any romaine lettuce they had, and not eat it unless they were sure it was not from the Yuma, Arizona area
GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/JUSTIN SULLIVAN

After spreading to half the country and infecting more than 120 people, the E. coli outbreak claims its first life.

The tainted romaine lettuce has tallied 121 people across 25 states, hospitalizing 52, causing kidney failure in 14, and now killing one. The death occurred in California, but no further information has been received from either the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the California Department of Public Health on this first casualty.

The first known case of the outbreak was spotted on March 13. While it evaded the identification of a source for some time, it has finally been traced to whole-head romaine lettuce from Yuma, Arizona. In Alaska, prison inmates were afflicted specifically due to produce from the Yuma-based Harrison Farms. However, none of the other illnesses seem to share that specific point of origin.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, “Most people reported eating a salad at a restaurant, and romaine lettuce was the only common ingredient identified among the salads eaten.” Specifically, “the restaurants reported using bagged, chopped romaine lettuce to make salads.”

Citizens are urged to avoid eating any romaine lettuce unless it can be confirmed not to be from Yuma. Of the 25 affected states, California, Pennsylvania, and Idaho have been hit the worst. Combined, they make up nearly half of the reported cases.

The CDC has issued guidelines for food safety, specifically for stemming the spread of the deadly toxin-producing bacteria.

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