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4 more deaths linked to romaine lettuce, 2 in Minnesota

04 June 2018
4 more deaths linked to romaine lettuce, 2 in Minnesota

Health officials announced on Friday that five people have now died after consuming tainted lettuce from Arizona, making this the nation's largest E. coli outbreak in a decade.

Twenty-five more ill persons have been added to the case count number since the last update on May 16 2018.

Canada's Public Health Agency has also recorded six cases of E. coli "with a similar genetic fingerprint" to the USA infections.

Of 158 patients interviewed by state and local health officials, all but 18 reported eating romaine lettuce in the week before their illness started.

"Any immediate risk is gone".

It is the largest United States outbreak of E. coli since 200 people fell ill in 2006. Gottlieb is Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Ostroff is FDA's Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine. Of those three cases, two developed a potentially fatal condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome that sometimes leads to kidney failure.

While the danger has mostly passed, reports of the illness are still coming in because of the time it takes officials to collect hospital information. Many new cases there were two or three weeks ago, when contaminated lettuce is still sold. Officials have still not targeted the exact source of the lettuce but have focused on Yuma, Arizona. Food is often shipped to central plants from various farms, where it is processed, mixed together, packaged, and redistributed.

"Traceback involves working backwards from the point of consumption or purchase of the product through the supply chain", Ostroff and Gottlieb wrote.

They haven't been able yet to trace the affected lettuce back to one particular farm, processor or distributor, FDA authorities said in an update Thursday.

Most people recover within a week, but some illnesses can last longer and be more severe.

Officials from the CDC and the FDA emphasized that nearly all these illnesses were contracted during the window when the lettuce was still for sale.