By Lena H. Sun | The Washington Post
The largest outbreak of E. coli in over a decade is over, federal authorities said Thursday after five people died and more than 200 others were detonated in three dozen states.
Although investigators found that E. coli originated from contaminated romaine lettuce that was grown in the Yuma region of Arizona near the border with southern California. The Food and Drug Administration was unable to connect the outbreak with a farm, processor or trader. New evidence has shown that bacteria from different channel water samples in the Yuma growing region are a genetic match to the bacterial strain that caused the outbreak said an opinion from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Thursday.
"More work needs to be done to find out how and why this strain of E. coli 01
Bill Marler, a well-known food safety lawyer who represents 105 patients affected by the lettuce, said he was not surprised that the probable compound was a widespread environmental pollution, such as water, the number of people affected and the number of unnamed Farms and fields.
The illnesses started in mid-March. According to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 96 people were hospitalized, including 27 who developed a type of severe kidney failure that can be life-threatening for people with a weak immune system, such as children and the elderly. Individual deaths were reported from Arkansas, California and New York, and two people died in Minnesota. The last reported illness began on June 6. Some people who got sick did not report eating romaine lettuce but had close contact with someone who got sick.
The authorities initially said that bagged and pre-chopped Romaine lettuce was contaminated throughout the country with E. coli, but a number of inmates in a Alaskan prison became ill even after eating whole-lettuce.
The outbreak is the worst E. coli outbreak since 2006, when 205 people fell ill and five died of E. coli from baby spinach.
E. Coli is a type of bacteria found in uncooked beef, raw milk, soft cheese from raw milk, raw fruits and vegetables and contaminated water. The infection can also spread from person to person through germs on the hands. Most E. coli bacteria are not harmful, but one species, known as E. coli O157: H7, produces a toxin called Shiga that destroys red blood cells and causes kidney failure and bloody diarrhea. Other types of E. coli cause urinary tract infections, respiratory diseases and pneumonia.