E. coli outbreak sickens 19 in Ohio, may be linked to lettuce at fast-food chain

A multistate E. coli outbreak that has sickened 19 people in Ohio may be linked to lettuce at a fast-food restaurant chain.

There are now 37 people infected with this strain across four states, including Michigan with 15 cases, Indiana with one case and two cases in Pennsylvania, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday evening. That number increased by eight from the original 15 cases in Michigan and 14 in Ohio reported Wednesday. Ten people have been hospitalized, up one since Wednesday, but no deaths have been reported.

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A specific food has not been confirmed as the source of the outbreak, but 22 of 26 people interviewed so far reported eating a sandwich with romaine lettuce at a Wendy’s restaurant in the week before their illness started, according to the CDC.

As a precaution, Wendy’s is removing the romaine lettuce used in sandwiches from restaurants in that region. Wendy’s uses a different type of romaine lettuce for salads. The CDC is not advising that people avoid eating at Wendy’s or to stop eating romaine lettuce.

Investigators are working to confirm whether romaine lettuce is the source of this outbreak, and whether romaine lettuce served at Wendy’s restaurants was served or sold at other businesses.

Escherichia coli are bacteria found in the environment, foods and intestines of people and animals. Most strains of E. coli are harmless but others can make people sick.

Symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infection vary, but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), vomiting and possibly a fever, typically less than 101 degrees. Most people get better within five to seven days. Some infections are mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening. The onset of symptoms for most is three to four days after eating or drinking something that contains the bacteria. However, illnesses can start anywhere from one to 10 days after exposure, according to the CDC.

Anyone experiencing severe E. coli symptoms is urged to immediately call a health care provider.

If you have E. coli symptoms, to help public health officials solve the source of the outbreak, write down what you ate in the week before you got sick, report your illness to your local or state health department and answer public health officials’ questions about your illness.

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