January 17, 2020

Romaine Outbreak Sickens Canadians with E. coli O157:H7 Infections

The romaine outbreak sickens Canadians with E. coli O157:H7 infections. The same bacteria linked to romaine has sickened at least 102 people in the United States. The two people who are sick in Canada are infected with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria that has a similar genetic fingerprint to patients in the U.S. Public Health Canada is working with U.S. officials to determine the source of contamination.

Two Canadians Sick in Romaine Lettuce E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak

Consumers are still being advised not to eat any romaine lettuce harvested from the Salinas, California growing region. Romaine lettuce harvested in Canada is not affected by this advice. The types of romaine from Salinas that should be avoided include whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has confirmed that romaine lettuce from Salinas, California was imported to Canada up until November 22, 2019. That lettuce should be past its expiration date, which is typically about 7 to 10 days, but it may still be for sale. The Canadian government has implemented new actions at the border to make sure that any romaine harvested in the Salinas area is not let into the country.

This is the fourth E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce that has affected Canadian consumers in the last two years. The government is monitoring for any new illnesses.

The two patients live in Manitoba and Alberta. They got sick in mid-October and early November 2019. One of the patients was hospitalized. More illnesses may be reported, since there is a time lag between when a person gets sick and the illness is reported to public health officials. That lag time can be as long as five weeks.

Not only are these illnesses linked to the U.S. outbreak, but this same strain of E. coli caused two previous outbreaks that happened in 2017 and 2018. This suggests a recurring source of contamination.

The symptoms of an E. coli infection include a mild fever, vomiting, severe and very painful abdominal and stomach cramps, and diarrhea that is bloody and watery. Symptoms usually start a few days after exposure to the pathogen. If you have eaten romaine lettuce and have been ill with these symptoms, see your doctor.

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