Dozens more sick from lettuce; Wisconsin hardest hit

Three dozen more patients and two more states are officially part of an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses traced to romaine lettuce, with residents in Wisconsin especially hard-hit. Over 26 individuals are confirmed with an outbreak-linked illness in Wisconsin, the most of any state in the nation.

To date, 138 people across 25 states have been sickened. There have been 72 people hospitalized and 13 of those have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure. Patients range in age from less than 1 to 89 years old, with a median age of 26. Their symptoms began on dates ranging from September 20th  through December 1st. Federal sources indicate that additional victims are likely to be identified because of the lag time between when a person becomes ill and when their diagnosis is reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has linked the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 to the same strain that was responsible for outbreaks in 2017 and 2018. Those outbreaks were linked to leafy greens and romaine lettuce, respectively. The CDC continues to advise that consumers not eat and retailers not sell any romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas, California, growing region. The alert warns against consuming all types of romaine lettuce grown in Salinas: whole heads of romaine, organic romaine, hearts of romaine, romaine in salad wraps, and packages of pre-cut lettuce and salad mixes which contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.

The fact that the same strain is responsible for outbreaks spanning multiple years suggests that the organism may be harboring in the soil or water supply in the growing region.

Public health investigators have linked bagged salad products from Fresh Express and Ready Pac to the outbreak based on testing by the Wisconsin and Maryland state health departments.

This holiday season, consider alternatives to a traditional green salad on the buffet: pasta salad, bean salad, potato salad, broccoli salad….. There are many options to keep your family food-safe this holiday. Barb