Romaine-linked E. coli outbreak reaches Nebraska

People infected with E coli in the US May 2 CDC

The last romaine lettuce shipments from the Yuma growing region, the source of the latest E. coli outbreak, were harvested on April 16.

"It is unlikely that any romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region is still available in stores or restaurants due to its 21-day shelf life", the Centers for Disease Control said Wednesday. In the latest official update, the CDC notes that new cases of E. coli-related food poisoning came from the period when contaminated lettuce might still be in circulation or in home refrigerators: "It takes two to three weeks between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported to CDC". Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 13, 2018 to May 2, 2018.

However, the CDC said consumers should still avoid eating it unless they can confirm it's not from the Yuma growing region.

The CDC said 20 people had developed a severe effect of E. coli infection called hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Farmers in California reported a drop in romaine lettuce sales since the outbreak was reported.

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The agency also warned restaurants not to serve romaine lettuce to customers.

Unless you know where the lettuce came from, consumers anywhere in the US who have any store-bought romaine lettuce at home should not eat it and should throw it away.

Genetic testing shows that the E. coli strain involved in the outbreak produces a specific type of "Shiga toxin" that causes more severe illness, according to Matthew Wise, the CDC deputy branch chief for outbreak response.

But an agriculture expert working for the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture said technology may offer solutions that may deter similar outbreaks from happening. Symptoms, which begin about three to four days after consuming the bacteria, can include watery or bloody diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, according to the CDC.

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