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Fatal E. coli outbreak in salads due to contaminated water




E. coli (CDC)

Do not worry, the latest fatal outbreak of E. coli in romaine lettuce is over. And yes, the romaine lettuce you buy in the store or stack on your plate at the salad bar is now safe to eat.

But how was this salad contaminated in the first place? The answer could be in the water.

According to a report released on Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, romaine lettuce contaminated with a particularly virulent strain of E. coli O157: H7 contracted 210 people in 36 states between March 13 and March 6th of June. The age of the victims was between 1 and 88 years.

Ninety-six of these people were sick enough to be hospitalized; Twenty-seven of them developed a hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. Five people from four states died. It is the worst outbreak of E. coli O157: H7 since an outbreak in 2006 in conjunction with spinach.

Using a special DNA fingerprinting method, called whole-genome sequencing, the CDC was able to determine that the E. coli bacteria were being taken from those who were ill, was genetically closely related, so that a single source of infection was the most likely cause.

The US Food and Drug Administration followed the outbreak with the CDC and various state partners in a single growing region: Yuma, Arizona, the "Winter Salad Capital of the World" is called.

It's not just salad that Yuma delivers. Yuma grows $ 2.5 billion a year in more than 175 crops, including dates, lemons and melons, from the rich soil that emerges from the Colorado River sediment and some irrigation systems. But what's important here is that Yuma County says it grows 90% of all leafy vegetables that America eats between the months of November and March.

According to the FDA, the last lettuce deliveries were delivered in April and the shelf. Meanwhile, the contaminated salad is no longer available.

During the investigation, the FDA found that the outbreak was not due to a single breeder, harvester, processor or trader. It was across multiple supply chains. This led to the assumption that the outbreak could originate from a common source of water.

On Thursday, the CDC said that samples taken from the canal water irrigating the Yuma fields were actually spiked with the same deadly bacteria.

The E. coli O157: H7 found in the canal water is genetically closely related to the E. coli O157: H7 of diseased humans, "said the CDC in a recent update on the outbreak.

How did E. coli get involved? Water is still being investigated by the FDA in the sewer. "The region collected samples from environmental sources, including water, soil and cow dung. The evaluation of these samples is still ongoing, "the FDA said in an update.

Interestingly, not all people who fell ill actually ate romaine lettuce, and some had close contact with people who had eaten the infected greens, the CDC recalled that safe handling methods must always be applied to fruits and vegetables.

"Important steps are thorough cooking of meat and hand washing after using the toilet or changing diapers, before and after preparation or eating after contact with animals," she advises CDC.


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