First Death Reported in California from E. coli-Tainted Romaine Lettuce
The dreaded E. coli-contaminated romaine lettuce outbreak has claimed its first casualty, and it’s in California. According to a report in The Washington Post, the infections have also spread, having sickened 121 people across 25 states. With the numbers going up every week, the outbreak is approaching the magnitude of the 2006 baby spinach E. coli outbreak in which 205 people because sick. Of those sickened in that outbreak, five died.
Serious Symptoms and Consequences
This strain of E. coli produces a toxin, which causes not just vomiting and diarrhea, but also other severe symptoms such as kidney failure. Of the people who have been sickened due to the tainted romaine lettuce, 52 have been hospitalized, 14 of them with kidney failure. E. coli is a bacterium that normally lives in intestines of animals such as cows and pigs. It is not still clear how the bacteria contaminated the lettuce and spread to so many people and places.
The Centers for Disease Control did identify one farm in Yuma, Arizona, as supplying the whole head lettuce linked to a cluster of E. coli illnesses in Alaska. People sickened across the country ate chopped lettuce sold in bagged form to restaurants. It is not clear if the bacteria contaminated the lettuce somewhere in the production stream beyond the original farm.
The CDC is asking all consumers to make sure any lettuce they buy or eat is not from the Yuma area. California now has the highest number of cases with 24 followed by Pennsylvania with 20 and Idaho with 11. The first case was reported on March 13 and the most recent one, on April 21.
What Can You Do?
Many experts are now encouraging consumers to stay away from all romaine lettuce altogether until the source of this contamination can be isolated and identified. If you feel any symptoms of food poisoning such as bloody diarrhea or nausea, be sure to get medical attention immediately. Ask your doctor to run the necessary diagnostic tests.
If you have any of the lettuce left over, isolate it so no one else consumes it and then have it tested at an independent lab for pathogens so you can confirm what made you sick. Report your illness to your local health agency as well as the CDC, which is tracking this outbreak. Contact an experienced California food poisoning lawyer who will help you seek and obtain fair compensation for your damages and losses including medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.