What you need to know about E. Coli romaine lettuce outbreak

- An E. Coli outbreak linked to contaminated romaine lettuce has sickened dozens of people across several states, including Michigan.

Here's the advice from the Centers for Disease Control: Don't buy or eat romaine lettuce unless you know it's not from the Yuma, Ariz. growing region. This strain of E. Coli is especially dangerous because it produces a toxin that can potentially lead to kidney complications.

"This E. Coli strain can, in immunocompromised people or in little children cause a complication called Hemolytic-uremic syndrome and that is what we’re worried about because that causes kidney failure and long-term damage," says Dr. Baruch Fertel from Cleveland Clinic.

E. Coli is a bacterium that exists in multiple strains, and is typically found in the intestines of humans and animals. In most cases, this bacterium is harmless and actually helps in the digestion of food. However, this strain can cause infection and symptoms, including severe stomach cramping, vomiting and diarrhea.  

Symptoms of E. Coli typically develop within three to five days, but may come as soon as one day and can last for up to eight days.  

Washing produce isn't a proven way to get rid of the E. Coli, but good hygiene while preparing food is always important because E. Coli can be transmitted by fresh produce as well as raw meats.  

"When one's preparing food, it's very important to make sure that the food surfaces that you use for raw meats are not the same ones that you use for prep, [and that] they're appropriately sanitized afterwards," Dr. Fertel adds. 

He says that neither antibiotics nor anti-diarrheal medications are recommended for treatment because both could potentially lead to increased complications with the kidneys.  
 

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