The E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce grown in Arizona has boomed to 149 cases in 29 states, though the death toll has not risen from the one reported last week, the Centers for Disease Control said Wednesday.
That's an increase of 28 sick people since the last update one week ago. To date, 64 people have been hospitalized -- 17 of them for a type of acute kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. The lone death was in California.
Health officials have tied the E. coli outbreak to romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona, which provides most of the romaine sold in the U.S. during the winter. The growing season in Yuma ended about a month ago, said the University of Arizona's Russell Engel, the director of Yuma County's cooperative extension service, but investigators have yet to isolate a possible brand or supplier.
The outbreak has now affected people in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida and nearly half the rest of the U.S. states. The most cases have been reported in California (30), followed by Pennsylvania (20) and Idaho (11). To date, New Jersey has eight cases -- an increase of one from the last CDC update -- New York has four (an increase of two) and Connecticut has two.
Patients across the nation range in age from 1 to 88, with the median being 30. Sixty-five percent are female and 50 percent of the noted cases have involved hospitalizations. Ninety-one person of 112 people interviewed reported eating romaine lettuce in the week before their illnesses started, compared with 46 percent of healthy people.
The CDC has warned to avoid eating any lettuce that may have been grown in Arizona and reiterated that warning on Wednesday.
But even if no one is eating tainted lettuce now, case counts may still rise because there's a lag in reporting. The first illnesses occurred in March, and the most recent began on April 25, the CDC said.
Most E. coli bacteria are not harmful, but some produce toxins that can cause severe illness. People who get sick from toxin-producing E. coli come down with symptoms about three to four days after swallowing the germ, with many suffering bloody diarrhea, severe stomach cramps and vomiting.
Most people recover within a week, but some illnesses can last longer and be more severe.