State and local public health agencies are investigating several reports of E. coli O157 illnesses likely linked to chopped romaine lettuce sourced from the winter growing areas in Yuma, Arizona.
Three cases in Montana are confirmed to be linked by laboratory testing to a multi-state outbreak and four more are suspected and further testing is pending.
Confirmed and suspected cases have been identified in Missoula, Flathead, Lincoln and Ravalli counties and include 3 hospitalizations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that an additional 35 cases, including 22 hospitalizations, in 11 states have been identified.
Symptoms of E. coli O157 infection vary for each person, but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Some people may have a low fever, less than 101˚F/38.5˚C. Most people get better within 5 to 7 days.
Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening. Most people with a E. coli O157 infection start feeling sick 3 to 4 days after eating or drinking something that contains the bacteria. However, illnesses can start anywhere from 1 to 10 days after exposure.
Advice to Consumers:
• Consumers anywhere in the United States who have store-bought chopped romaine lettuce at home, including salads and salad mixes containing chopped romaine lettuce, should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick. If you do not know if the chopped lettuce is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.
• Before purchasing romaine lettuce at a grocery store or eating it at a restaurant, consumers should confirm with the store or restaurant that it is not chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region. If you cannot confirm the source of the chopped romaine lettuce, do not buy it or eat it.
Advice to Restaurants and Retailers:
• Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell any chopped romaine lettuce, including salads and salad mixes containing chopped romaine lettuce, from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.
• Restaurants and retailers should ask their suppliers about the source of their chopped romaine lettuce.
In addition to working with providers to investigate possible illness, public health authorities are asking restaurants and retailers to determine the source of any romaine lettuce and not serve or sell it.
The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) will update information online. For more information and updates visit the DPHHS website at http://dphhs.mt.gov/.