5 dead, nearly 200 sick in romaine E. coli outbreak

Getty Images  iStock

Getty Images iStock

Four more people have died from tainted romaine lettuce, federal health officials said Friday, bringing the total to five deaths related to a virulent strain of E. coli whose source has still not been located. In total, 197 people across 35 states have become sick since March 13.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is investigating the outbreak alongside the CDC, believes that the probable link to all these illnesses is romaine lettuce sourced from the winter growing areas in and around the Yuma region in Arizona.

When a person becomes infected with the bacteria, it can take two to three weeks before a report to the CDC.

In early May, the Minnesota Department of Health confirmed 10 cases of E. coli infection in Minnesota, with three requiring hospitalization.

Previously one death had been reported, in California. On Friday, health officials said they had learned of four more - one in Arkansas, one in NY, and two in Minnesota.


The growing season in the Yuma, Ariz., region, which produced the contaminated lettuce, ended April 16.

The recent E. coli outbreak is the most severe to hit the US since 2006, when three people died in an outbreak linked to uncooked spinach. The last reported illness began on May 12.

The CDC also noted that some people who became sick had not eaten romaine lettuce, but had close contact with someone else who get sick from eating it.

Numerous new cases were people who became ill two to three weeks ago, when contaminated lettuce was still being sold. Young children and adults have a greater risk of developing a form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is life-threatening.

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