Coli outbreak warning in U.S. expands to all romaine lettuce

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The Centers for Disease Control has expanded its warning about romaine lettuce from Yuma, Arizona, in the current E. coli outbreak that has spread to 16 states.

The CDC said it did not have the number of sick people in Alaska yet, and it can not say for sure where the contaminated lettuce came from precisely.

Symptoms include stomach cramps, nausea and diarrhea, and also often may appear after three to four times on average.

Businesses have been told to ask their suppliers about the source of their romaine lettuce.

As of Wednesday, the hospitalization rate for this outbreak was about 58 per cent, much higher than the 30 per cent normally associated with infections involving E. coli O157: H7, according to a CDC update sent to clinicians on Thursday.

Health officials say if you can't confirm where the lettuce came from, don't eat it. Eight inmates in the prison were infected after eating whole romaine lettuce contaminated by the bacteria, according to information from the CDC and Alaska's Department of Health and Social Services.

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The area around Yuma, Arizona where 90 percent of the nation's romaine lettuce comes from, and although the exact source hasn't been identified, the CDC strongly suspects that region is the culprit. Of those who have been sickened, at least 31 people have been hospitalized, including five who developed a type of potentially life-threatening kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome.

The CDC did caution illnesses occurring after March 29 aren't reflected in the latest statistics due to how long it takes someone to become ill with E. coli and when the illness is then reported.

There have been reported cases in Pennsylvania, Idaho, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Virginia, Washington, California, Alaska, Arizona, Louisiana and Montana.

McDonald's in Nogales is among restaurants that have stopped serving salad in light of a recent E.coli outbreak. You can get exposed to E. coli from contaminated water or food, or through contact with fecal material from people or animals.

Obviously, if you grow your own romaine lettuce or know exactly where it was grown (and it's not anywhere near Yuma, Arizona) feel free to continue to indulge in the leafy vegetable to your heart's content.

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