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STEC O157 outbreak sickens 66 and kills two in U.S. and Canada

12 January 2018

Officials in Canada point to romaine lettuce as the E. coli source.

But the agency says there have been no reports of illness since December 12.

The cases in the United States are the same strain as the cases in Canada, and some of them have the same genetic fingerprint. "Canada has identified the source as romaine lettuce", says Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports.

American officials said that the outbreak in the United States was most likely caused by "leafy greens", and their counterparts in Canada specifically identified romaine lettuce as the source of the infections there. Wise noted that any leafy green that was in the food supply at the time of the last reported infection would likely be long gone by now.

In a news release issued earlier on Wednesday, the CDC said the "likely source" of the outbreak in the US appeared to be "leafy greens", but unlike in Canada, officials had not identified a specific type. Based on this information, US health officials concluded that ill people in this outbreak were not more likely than healthy people to have eaten romaine lettuce.

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By Dec. 28, there were more than 40 cases under investigation in Canada and one reported death. In the United States, there are 24 confirmed victims across 15 states.

Since it's better to be safe than sorry, many are advising that you should chuck any romaine lettuce you have lurking in the back of the fridge. Neither the CDC nor Canadian health officials have provided any information on where the romaine lettuce potentially involved in the illnesses was grown or processed, so for now, consumers should assume that any romaine lettuce, even when sold in bags and packages, could possibly be contaminated, Rogers said.

"State and local public health officials continue to interview sick people in the United States to determine what they ate in the week before their illness started". People usually get sick from E. coli O157:H7 three to four days after eating food contaminated with the germ. But infection with the O157 strain, which produces a shiga toxin, can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

To protect against E. coli infection, health officials say people should thoroughly wash their hands, as well as counters, cutting boards and utensils.

The outbreak of E. coli O157 was declared in December after several reports of illness in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec. Don't buy romaine lettuce and don't use any still be at home until there is more information on the source of contamination.

STEC O157 outbreak sickens 66 and kills two in U.S. and Canada