E. Coli Symptoms: Outbreak Grows, 84 Sick After Eating Romaine Lettuce

An E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce shows no signs of slowing down. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday that related cases of food poisoning had cropped up in three new states. The agency also said it had received 31 additional reports of people falling ill after eating the popular leafy green.

The CDC confirmed to Newsweek that this outbreak is the worst multistate E. coli outbreak in the U.S. since 2006, when nearly 200 people got sick from contaminated spinach.

E. coli is a bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea, cramps and vomiting. This particular outbreak has hospitalized more people than usual thanks to a type of kidney failure called hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). More than 40 people have gone to the hospital, including nine with HUS—however, no deaths have been reported.

After the CDC announced on Friday that people should avoid eating any romaine lettuce from the area around Yuma, Arizona, The Washington Post sent a news alert through its mobile app, sparking a secondary outbreak of lettuce-related jokes on Twitter.

This is just to say

I have eaten the romaine
That was in
The icebox

And which
You were probably
To chuck
Per CDC guidance

Forgive me
It was so green
And so crisp

I don't feel great

Excuse me
I must use
Your restroom

— Josh Barro (@jbarro) April 20, 2018

the decline and fall of the romaine empire

— Emily Nussbaum (@emilynussbaum) April 20, 2018

The CDC has been urging people to throw out any kind of romaine lettuce or romaine lettuce-containing salad mix if they aren't sure it's not from Yuma. Rebels who really want to eat some lettuce should ask restaurants and grocery stores where the lettuce came from. As Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, noted on Twitter, the answer probably won't be "Yuma, Arizona."

Romaine has a short shelf life and the winter growing season is ending in Yuma. It’s likely that any romaine sold now is from California, not AZ. Consumers should continue asking grocers and restaurants to make sure their romaine isn't from Yuma. https://t.co/We02xgGjGj.

— Scott Gottlieb, M.D. (@SGottliebFDA) April 23, 2018

According to the CDC, 265,000 people get sick from Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli strains like the one involved in this outbreak every year. More than 3,500 Americans go to the hospital each year, with about 30 dying. E. coli outbreaks generally get started after food is contaminated with feces from an infected animal—so even when there isn't an nasty outbreak happening, please wash your hands and your produce.