Death toll rises to 5 in US tainted lettuce outbreak

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Health officials said there are now 197 cases across 35 states.

Officials say the people who became ill ate the tainted romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region when it was likely still available in grocery stores and restaurants. There is typically a lag between the time when someone falls ill and the CDC is alerted. Canadian health officials also recently identified E. coli cases in several provinces that could potentially be linked to the outbreak in the United States.

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Four more deaths were reported from Arkansas (1), Minnesota (2), and NY (1). On Friday, health officials said they had learned of four more - one in Arkansas, one in NY, and two in Minnesota. The last reported illness began on May 12.

Romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region in Arizona is thought to be the source of the latest outbreak, although the Food and Drug Administration said no single grower, distributor or region could account for the spread.

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Numerous new cases were people who became ill two to three weeks ago, when contaminated lettuce was still being sold. While almost 90 percent of those who fell ill reported eating romaine lettuce in the week before they were sickened, some told the CDC that they did not personally eat the lettuce but were in close contact with somebody who did. Of 187 people with information available, 89 (48 percent) have been hospitalized, including 26 people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

The CDC has not pinpointed the exact source of the outbreak, but the lettuce appears to have been contaminated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7, a particularly unsafe strain of the bacteria.

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