Romaine lettuce outbreak update: 172 sick in 32 states

Posted: Updated:
This undated file image shows lettuce at a Foodland grocery store in Maui. (File Image, Wikipedia Commons) This undated file image shows lettuce at a Foodland grocery store in Maui. (File Image, Wikipedia Commons)

(Meredith/AP) — Health officials say nearly two dozen more cases of a food poisoning outbreak linked to romaine lettuce grown in Arizona have been reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that the total number of people sickened by a strain of E. coli is now 172 across 32 states.

Related: Lettuce E. coli outbreak the largest in a decade

At least 75 people have been hospitalized, including 20 with kidney failure. One death was in California.

Health officials say there is a lag time of two to three weeks between when someone falls ill and when it's reported to the CDC.

The agency says the romaine was grown in Yuma, Arizona and was last harvested April 16. So, it should no longer be in stores and restaurants because of its three-week shelf life.

Related: Here's everything you need to know about E. coli

There are many strains of the bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli). Most strains are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals. Some kinds of E. coli cause disease by producing Shiga toxin.

The bacteria that make these toxins are called "Shiga toxin-producing" E. coli (STEC). The most commonly found STEC in the United States is E. coli O157:H7.

Symptoms

The symptoms of STEC infections can include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Some infections are mild, but others can be life-threatening.

Getting Infected

The CDC estimates that 265,000 STEC infections occur each year in the United States. E. coli O157:H7 causes more than 36 percent of these infections. People of all ages can be infected, but young children and the elderly are more likely to develop severe symptoms.

The types of E. coli that can cause illness can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or people.

E.coli Prevention

To avoid E. coli infections, experts advise to thoroughly cook meat, avoid unpasteurized dairy products and juices, avoid swallowing water while swimming, and wash hands regularly.