Romaine Lettuce Suspected in E. Coli Illnesses

A rash of serious illnesses link to E. coli infections across the United States and Canada is perhaps tied to tainted romaine lettuce, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a recent statement on the cases, the agency said that, beginning Nov. 15, seventeen cases of a particularly severe strain of the gastrointestinal infection have occurred across 13 states. California was hit with three cases, Connecticut and New Hampshire with two cases each, and there was one case each reported in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont and Washington state.

A similar strain has also sickened people in multiple Canadian provinces, the CDC noted. Preliminary genetic testing suggests the same strain -- and potentially same food source -- may be responsible for all the cases.

"The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak in Canada," the CDC said in the statement. "In the United States, state and local public health officials are interviewing sick people to determine what they ate in the week before their illness started. CDC is still collecting information to determine whether there is a food item in common among sick people, including leafy greens and romaine."

Until romaine lettuce is either confirmed or ruled out as the culprit, "CDC is unable to recommend whether U.S. residents should avoid a particular food," the agency said. "This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released as it becomes available."

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