An E. coli outbreak that health investigators believe is linked to chopped romaine lettuce has expanded, with 53 cases now reported in 16 states, and nearly three dozen hospitalized, at least five of whom suffered kidney failure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added 18 more cases to the total in its update Wednesday, a marked increase since the prior update less than a week earlier, and said five more states reported sick people: Alaska, Arizona, California, Louisiana and Montana.
Officials believe the contaminated lettuce was grown in Yuma, Arizona, though they have not identified a grower, supplier, distributor or brand.
Cases have been reported across the tri-state area, the most in New Jersey (7); New York and Connecticut have three cases each. Pennsylvania has the most (12) in this outbreak, followed by Idaho (10). Check the CDC's case count map.
The CDC added nine more hospitalizations to its count from last week, bringing the total in this outbreak to 31. Five of those cases involved a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious condition caused by the abnormal destruction of red blood cells. No one has died.
Consumers who have bought romaine lettuce - including salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce - are advised to throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.
Before purchasing romaine lettuce at a grocery store or eating it at a restaurant, confirm with the store or restaurant that it is not chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region. If you cannot confirm the source of the romaine lettuce, do not buy it or eat it.
Restaurants and retailers are advised to take similar precautions.
Health officials say the outbreak started in late March. Symptoms vary and can range from mild to severe diarrhea to nausea and vomiting. Usually, there is little or no fever present. E. coli can spread from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces, the CDC says. It is very contagious and can spread quickly in places such as daycare centers and cruise ships.
“Individuals with this infection usually get better within about 5 to 7 days, however, some illnesses can be serious or even life-threatening,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said in a statement last week. “Anyone experiencing symptoms of this illness should see a healthcare provider.”