E. coli outbreak from lettuce shows up in Minnesota

Forum News Service file

As of Wednesday May 9, the total number of affected persons has reached 149, spanning over 29 states, and the bacteria has killed one person.

The Minnesotans suffered their illnesses between April 20 and May 2, and reported eating lettuce from stores, restaurants or residential facilities.

They say the cases are both from the metro area and greater Minnesota counties and that 90 percent of those sick are women. Seventeen of the individuals who have been hospitalized developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which causes the red blood cells to be destroyed.

Romaine lettuce shouldn't be sold, purchased or eaten unless it can be confirmed that it's not from the Yuma region, said Kirk Smith, manager of the health department's foodborne, waterborne, vector borne and zoonotic diseases section.

In the meantime, the Yuma growing season has ended, and California is the growing region throughout summer.

People who contract Shiga toxin-producing E. coli get sick an average of three to four days after they've swallowed the tainted food, the CDC said.

Symptoms of E.coli O157 can include stomach cramps and diarrhea, often with bloody stools, but typically there is no fever involved. People typically become ill two to five days after exposure, but this period can range from one to eight days.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the CDC are running a federal investigation of the multi-state E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. However, children younger than 10, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are at risk of developing complications. In the latest update to its initial warning bulletin, the CDC explains that the strain of E. coli which has been traced back to a specific growing region in Arizona is still spreading. The products may include baby and organic romaine, salad mixes, whole head, chopped lettuce and hearts of romaine. It may be because people in those states eat more romaine lettuce, or are eat out more frequently. The law firm has brought E. coli lawsuits against such companies as Jack in the Box, Dole, ConAgra, Cargill, and Jimmy John's.

About 135 cases of E. coli are reported in Minnesota each year, according to the MDH.

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