E Coli Outbreak Spreads to 15 States; Leafy Greens Suspected

Although the outbreak appears to be over the Public Health Agency of Canada says Canadians should 'always follow safe food handling tips for preparing lettuce.'

In her letter, the Democrat asked CDC to clarify the coordination between Canada and the USA health authorities on the outbreak, and report any information CDC may have on "implicated suppliers, distributors or retailers".

Public health agencies in both the United States and Canada are informing consumers that there are no concerns about consuming any particular food, while they continue their investigations into what caused this E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that began in November. The CDC says that while it is too soon to declare the outbreak over in the US, it is possible that the leafy greens causing the outbreak are no longer in the food supply.

An FDA spokesperson later confirmed this position to Consumer Reports: "This work is ongoing". "We think it's important to avoid eating romaine until the cause of this outbreak is determined", read a statement on Wednesday.

Across Canada and 15 states, dozens have been infected and two people have even died.

In the United States, a total of 24 STEC O157:H7 infections have been reported from California (4), CT (2), IL (1), IN (2), Maryland (3), MI (1), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (2), New Jersey (1), NY (1), OH (1), Pennsylvania (2), Vermont (1), Virginia (1), and Washington (1).

There has been one death and nine people have been hospitalized, including two with kidney failure, CNN reported. She said it's still unclear whether FDA is intensifying testing of USA and imported products in the wake of Canada's findings. Neither country had identified the source of the contaminations, and to where or how the affected produce was distributed. However, in the United States, state and federal agencies stopped short of making that declaration, stating that the investigation is ongoing. Of 13 interviewed, all 13 said they ate leafy greens.

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General Manager Dale Huss looks over a field of romaine lettuce with drip lines installed in it at Sea Mist Farms in Castroville Wednesday, May 22, 2013. This percentage was not significantly higher than results from a survey of healthy people in which 46% reported eating romaine lettuce in the week before they were interviewed.

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. Holidays can increase this delay.

Although the most recent illness started on December 12, there is a delay between when someone gets sick and when the illness is reported to CDC.

CDC is not recommending that USA residents avoid any particular food given the short shelf life of leafy greens and because a specific type of leafy greens has not been identified.

The symptoms of an E. coli O157:H7 infection include diarrhea that is bloody or watery, and severe stomach and abdominal cramps. This strain of E. coli can not be neutralized by washing, only by cooking, so if you have any, grill it till it's crispy or toss it. You can also wash counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat to avoid contaminating other foods.

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