Officials identify a source in the romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak

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Officials identify a source in the romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak

They say they are "continuing to investigate the outbreak to learn more about how the E. coli bacteria could have entered the water and ways this water could have contaminated romaine lettuce".

The spring breakout of E. coli was previously traced to Yuma, Arizona, but Thursday officials got more specific about the source.

"CDC laboratory testing identified the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 in canal water samples taken from the Yuma growing region", the CDC said in the update.

Investigators have not yet identified how the E. coli bacteria made its way into the water and are still trying to determine whether other water sources may have been infected, but the Federal Department of Agriculture says that the last shipments of infected romaine lettuce went out on April 16. "This isn't the first time ready-to-eat produce has been linked to a deadly E. coli O157 outbreak", said Fred Pritzker, attorney and food safety expert, "but it is the largest outbreak of its kind since 2006". Following this announcement the FDA advised consumers to avoid all romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region. California had the most reported cases, 49.

An update of illnesses associated with this outbreak is as follows: 210 people were sickened in 36 states; 97 were hospitalized, including 27 who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome; and 5 people died.

"It is encouraging that public health officials found the outbreak strain of E. coli bacteria in the area", Fred added.

Attorney Fred Pritzker, who has represented clients in romaine lettuce E. coli lawsuit, said, "Even when you recover from this infection, there is still a risk you will develop a serious complication in the future such as kidney disease". Officials suspect cattle contaminated a nearby stream, and wild pigs roaming the area spread it to fields. A new cluster was reported the next day. While these tests confirm that the pathogen is present in the environment, it does not identify the initial source of contamination of the romaine lettuce.

Most people recover within one week.

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