The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday that 14 more people have been made sick by the E. coli outbreak involving romaine lettuce, bringing the total to 98 people in 22 states.
The latest figures make this the largest outbreak of E. coli since 2006, when the contaminated baby spinach was the culprit.
Three more states have reported sick people: Mississippi, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Forty-six people out of 87 in whom information is available, or 53 percent, have been hospitalized. Ten of those who developed severe kidney failure.
Laboratory tests have confirmed that the strain of the deadly E. coli O157: H7 bacterium that causes this outbreak produces a type of toxin that tends to cause more serious disease, which may explain why there is a high rate of hospitalization. No deaths were reported, the CDC said.
The search for the origin of the outbreak is ongoing. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration say that the growing region of Yuma, Arizona is the source, and the FDA has identified a farm there as the source of the romaine lettuce that sickened eight inmates in Alaska. Because the growing season in Yuma is coming to an end, that farm no longer grows lettuce, officials said, who are still investigating about two dozen farms in the Yuma region and other businesses along the chains. of national supply.
Lettuce contaminated with this strain of E. coli was supplied to restaurants and retailers of many different processors, producers and shippers, the agency said.
Harrison Farms whole lettuce was harvested from March 5 to 16 and has already passed its 21-day shelf life. Researchers have not determined where pollution occurred in the supply chain, whether in the stage of cultivation, harvest, packaging or distribution, which caused the illness of those inmates.
Stic Harris, director of the FDA's response and outbreak evaluation network, told reporters on Friday that investigators have not yet gone to the farm to see what else is growing. But he added: "We are not seeing any other product involved."
A person answering the phone in Harrison Farms hung a Washington Post reporter twice after identifying himself as a member of the media. A Facebook page indicates that farms grow or have grown cotton and wheat in addition to lettuce.
The Yuma area grows most of the lettuce harvested in the United States during the winter months, but officials say lettuce is now in stores or restaurants, probably from the Central Valley of California or the Valley of Salinas and has not been involved in the outbreak. No other type of lettuce or lettuce grown outside the Yuma region has been implicated in the outbreak, authorities said.
The CDC information for consumers and retailers remains unchanged. The agency urges you not to eat romaine lettuce unless you know it is not from the Yuma area. That includes all kinds of lettuce, either minced, whole head or in a salad mix. The CDC advises consumers to throw away any romaine that may be from the Yuma region, even if some have already been eaten without signs of illness. It is often difficult for consumers to know where the lettuce from the grocery store was produced because the labels are not specific.
"When I look at a bag of lettuce and say US product, do I know it's from Yuma?" No, "Harris said during Friday's briefing. "I know it's from California, No. That resolves with more descriptive labeling, but in the end, that's the industry's call for how to implement it."
Restaurants and retailers must not serve or sell any romaine lettuce from the Yuma region. This includes whole heads and romaine hearts, chopped roman, baby romaine, organic roman, and salads and salad mixes that contain romaine lettuce.
Pennsylvania has led the nation in reported cases, with 18, followed by California with 16 and Idaho with 10. The most recent case involved a person becoming ill on April 20, but the CDC notes that illnesses since 5 April may not have been reported yet to the authorities.
Given the delay of two to three weeks between someone getting sick and reporting the In this case, CDC officials say they expect the number of cases to grow in the coming weeks.
E. Coli is a bacterium that may be present in the faeces of animals or humans. This particular strain produces a Shiga toxin that causes severe symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea, and can also cause kidney failure. During the 2006 E.coli outbreak involving baby spinach, a different strain that also produces the Shiga toxin made 238 people sick, including 103 who were hospitalized and five who died.
In the current outbreak, Izabella Radovich of Wilton, California, was among those who became ill after eating contaminated salad. The 16-year-old girl from rural Sacramento had been eating salad every day the week before she got sick.
"She's a teenager, she was trying to eliminate junk food and be healthier," her mother, Tiffany Halley, told The Washington Post. But Radovich began to have chills, fever and stomach cramps on April 6. In two days, he doubled over in pain and had bloody stools and diarrhea.
Over the course of several days, Halley took his daughter to see a pediatrician twice, and took her twice to the emergency room because she felt a lot of pain. By April 10, the CDC had issued its first announcement about the outbreak of E. coli disease. The next day, Halley went to the pediatrician's office and remembers being told that this dangerous strain of E. coli could affect his daughter's kidneys.
The doctor said Radovich was young and had healthy kidneys, Halley said.
"She told us, 'your kidneys are perfect,'" Halley recalled. Two days later, on April 13, Radovich's skin turned pale and yellow, and he no longer urinated, signs that he had a type of life-threatening kidney failure, known as hemolytic uremic syndrome or HUS.
They returned to the emergency room, where the hospital said Radovich was suffering from kidney failure and sent her by ambulance to a nearby children's hospital in Roseville, California. The teenager remained in the ICU for eight days. She has had to receive all her nutrition intravenously and has received four blood transfusions to treat severe anemia.
"They are waiting for the toxins to completely leave their bodies," Halley said. On Monday, the results of the tests on his fecal samples confirmed that his illness is part of the outbreak. The teenager was still in the hospital on Wednesday, and doctors said it could take three months for her blood count to rise to a normal level, Halley said.
Even after her daughter became ill, some friends and acquaintances did not realize how serious the illness was until they saw Radovich in the hospital.
"This has been an absolute nightmare," said Halley, 36. "The only way I can describe it, just watching your child get sick like that, is the most heart-wrenching sensation on Earth."