May 24, 2024

E. coli Outbreaks in 2018 Sickened 296

Three E. coli outbreaks in 2018 sickened at least 296 people. These outbreaks were linked to romaine lettuce and ground beef. E. coli illnesses are serious because if a patient is under the age of five, they can develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), as a complication. That complication can cause kidney failure, strokes, seizures, and death.

E. coli Outbreaks in 2018

The E. coli outbreaks of 2018 included the strains O157:H7 and O26. There are six non-O157 E. coli strains that produce shiga toxins. Those toxins travel through the bloodstream, destroying red blood cells, which then clog tiny tubes in the kidneys. They also travel to the brain and can cause strokes.

Patients sickened in this outbreak did develop that complication. One hundred twenty seven people were hospitalized, 29 developed HUS, and one person died.

These are the E. coli outbreaks in 2018:

  1. E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce grown in certain counties in California. Public health officials found the outbreak strain in sediment at the bottom of an agricultural water reservoir on an Adam Bros. Farming farm in Santa Barbara County. In all, 62 people were sickened in this outbreak. Twenty-five were hospitalized, 2 developed HUS. Before investigators narrowed down the geographical area where the contaminated lettuce was grown, the government took the extraordinary step of warning consumers not to eat any romaine lettuce.
  2. An E. coli O26 outbreak linked to recalled Cargill Meat Solutions ground beef sickened at least 18 people in 4 states. Six people were hospitalized. One person, who lived in Florida, died. This was a short outbreak, since illness onset dates ranged from July 5 to July 25, 2018. Much of the recalled ground beef was sold at Publix stores in Florida.
  3. Another E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce was the largest outbreak of its kind in years. At least 210 people were sickened, 96 were hospitalized, 27 people developed HUS, and five people, who lived in Arkansas, California, Minnesota (2), and New York, died. Traceback found that lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona growing region was the likely source of this outbreak, but no specific brand, grower, or processor was named. Officials found the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 in canal water samples near some of the growing fields.

There is really no way to protect yourself from E. coli contamination on ready-to-eat foods, such as the romaine lettuce. Washing produce will not remove this pathogen. But you can avoid this infection by cooking ground beef to 160°F as measured with a food thermometer, and avoiding consuming unpasteurized milk and juice.

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