The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports there are now five people dead and 197 sick from E. coli O157:H7 linked to romaine lettuce.
- 197 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from 35 states.
- 89 people (48%) have been hospitalized, including 26 people who have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome.
- 5 deaths have been reported from Arkansas (1), California (1), Minnesota (2), and New York (1).
- Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 13, 2018 to May 12, 2018.
- Ill people range in age from 1 to 88 years, with a median age of 29.
- Sixty-eight percent of ill people are female.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified people in several Canadian provinces infected with the same DNA fingerprint of E. coli O157:H7.
It takes two to three weeks between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported to CDC. Most of the people who recently became ill ate romaine lettuce when lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region was likely still available in stores, restaurants, or in peoples’ homes. Some people who became sick did not report eating romaine lettuce, but had close contact with someone else who got sick from eating romaine lettuce.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the last shipments of romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region were harvested on April 16, 2018, and the harvest season is over. It is unlikely that any romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region is still available in people’s homes, stores, or restaurants due to its 21-day shelf life.
The traceback investigation indicates that the illnesses associated with this outbreak cannot be explained by a single grower, harvester, processor, or distributor. While traceback continues, the FDA will focus on trying to identify factors that contributed to contamination of romaine across multiple supply chains. The agency is examining all possibilities, including that contamination may have occurred at any point along the growing, harvesting, packaging, and distribution chain before reaching consumers.
The FDA has identified Harrison Farms of Yuma, Arizona, as the grower and sole source of the whole-head romaine lettuce that sickened several people in an Alaskan correctional facility, but has not determined where in the supply chain the contamination occurred.
On May 31, 2018 the FDA released a blog with updated information on the traceback investigation (for additional information, visit FDA Update on Traceback Related to the E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak Linked to Romaine Lettuce).
A listing of 78 outbreaks linked to leafy greens since 1995 is posted here.