E. coli outbreak kills 2, sickens dozens in United States, Canada

At least 58 people in the United States and Canada have become ill due to a “dangerous strain” of E. coli, likely from eating romaine lettuce, according to Consumer Reports.

The outbreak has killed one person in each country and sickened at least 58 people, Consumer Reports said. In the United States, the illness has occurred in 13 states, including California. Five people in the U.S. have been hospitalized as a result of the outbreak, which has occurred over the past seven weeks, Consumer Reports said. Canadian officials said the illnesses were reported in Canada in November and early December of 2017.

Canadian health authorities have identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak in Canada, Consumer Reports said. Though U.S. health officials are investigating the cause of the outbreak, they have not officially identified lettuce or any other food as the source.

“There is not enough epidemiologic evidence at this time to indicate a specific source of the illnesses in the United States,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokeswoman Brittany Behm told Consumer Reports. Behm added that though some sick people reported eating romaine lettuce, preliminary data showed they weren’t more likely than healthy people to eat the lettuce, based on a CDC survey.

Even though U.S. authorities can’t say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce caused the outbreak, Consumer Reports urged a “greater degree of caution,” about lettuce because it’s usually consumed raw.

According to the Mayo Clinic, E. coli symptoms usually begin three to four days after being exposed. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, pain or tenderness, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. People can be exposed to E. coli from contaminated water or food, the Mayo Clinic said.

The strain of E. coli that’s sickening people now produces a toxin than can lead to serious illness, kidney failure and death, Consumer Reports said. Young children, the elderly and anyone with a condition that weakens the immune system are at a greater risk for illness.

Gabby Ferreira: 805-781-7858, @Its_GabbyF

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