May 21, 2019

E. coli O157 Outbreak in Canada Linked to Romaine Lettuce Grows; One Person Has Died

The E. coli O157 outbreak in Canada that is linked to romaine lettuce has grown. Nine more people are sick, Ontario and Nova Scotia have been added to the case count, and one person has died. There are now 30 people sick in five provinces.

E coli O157 outbreak

There are no product recalls linked to these illness at this time. Romaine lettuce has been identified as the product that has caused this outbreak. The investigation is ongoing and Public Health Agency of Canada will update the outbreak on a regular basis.

The case count by province is: Ontario, (6), Quebec (5), New Brunswick (5), Nova Scotia (1), and Newfoundland and Labrador (13). People got sick in November and December 2017. Twelve people have been hospitalized in this E. coli O157 outbreak. The patient age range is between 4 and 80 years of age.

Many people who got sick said they ate romaine lettuce in the week before their illnesses occurred. Although anyone can get this illness, those who are more likely to suffer serious complications include the young, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with chronic illnesses and compromised immune systems.

The most common complication from an E. coli O157 illness is called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This complication is a type of kidney failure and can cause seizures, strokes, and death. The government’s report does not state if anyone in this particular outbreak has developed this complication.

Leafy greens are one of the most common food items that are contaminated with E. coli bacteria. Animals, improperly composted manure, and runoff from factory farms can deposit the pathogenic bacteria in the field. Contamination is also possible during harvest, storage, transportation, or through cross-contamination with raw meat, poultry, and seafood.

If you have eaten romaine lettuce in Canada and have experienced the symptoms of an E. coli infection, see your doctor. The symptoms include a mild fever, severe and painful stomach and abdominal cramps, and diarrhea that is bloody or watery.

To protect yourself, always wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food. If you are preparing fresh lettuce, discard the outer leaves, and rinse the leaves under cool running water. Don’t soak the lettuce to clean it. Store lettuce in the fridge up to a week, then discard. And always avoid cross-contamination by using soap and water to clean utensils, countertops, and cutting boards before and after preparing food.

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