Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
Medical | By Alyssa Little

Coli O157:H7 HUS Outbreak Associated with Leafy Greens; Romaine?

Coli O157:H7 HUS Outbreak Associated with Leafy Greens; Romaine?

There is new information out on the deadly E. coli outbreak in the United States and Canada. The strain of E. coli involved in this outbreak, O157:H7, is particularly serious.

Even if the outbreak was caused by lettuce, it's unlikely the perishable product would still be available for sale or in a home refrigerator as the last illness onset date was reported to be December 8, the groups said. Whole genome sequencing indicates that the two outbreak strains in the United States and Canada are closely related genetically. "Canada has identified the source as romaine lettuce", says Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports.

"Because CDC has not identified a specific type of leafy greens linked to the USA infections, and because of the short shelf life of leafy greens, CDC is not recommending that US residents avoid any particular food at this time." the release said.

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The CDC, for its part, says that it hasn't yet identified the type of leafy green involved and that it's investigation is continuing. Romaine lettuce is mostly eaten raw and washing it or any produce tainted with E. coli will not remove the harmful bacteria. There has been one death, which was previously reported.

No common supplier distributor, or retailer of leafy greens has been identified as a possible source of this outbreak. However, in the United States, state and federal agencies stopped short of making that declaration, stating that the investigation is ongoing. Most people recover from the illness in five to seven days. Individuals became sick in November and early December 2017.

In the US, the FDA, which had not posted any public information about the outbreak until today, is assisting the CDC, but has virtually nothing to report.

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It says the likely source of the USA outbreak appears to be leafy greens but they haven't identified which type yet. Because of these reporting delays, more time is needed before CDC can say the outbreak in the United Stated is over.

The symptoms of E. coli infections include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea - often bloody and vomiting. This strain of E. coli can not be neutralized by washing, only by cooking, so if you have any, grill it till it's crispy or toss it. "The bacteria can also be transmitted if a person who is carrying the bacteria doesn't wash his or her hands after using the bathroom and then processes or prepares food".

There were 42 cases in five eastern provinces: Ontario (eight), Quebec (15), New Brunswick (five), Nova Scotia (one) and Newfoundland and Labrador (13). It urged the public to avoid eating romaine lettuce until more is known about the contamination.

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