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5 confirmed cases of E. coli in WA linked to tainted romaine lettuce

Liz West/Flickr Creative Commons (

Before you buy that head of lettuce, you might want to first check where it’s grown.

“Be certain that what they’re buying is from California and not from Arizona,” said Marguerite Pappaioanou, epidemiologist at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health.

The E. Coli outbreak linked to tainted romaine lettuce continues to grow. To date, at least 98 people from 22 states have become ill. Half of them were hospitalized. 

The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration have traced the bacteria source to Yuma, Arizona. Scientists are still trying to narrow that down to the actual grower.

They know the bacteria causing the outbreak is E. coli O157:H7. Pappaioanou says this strain is particularly dangerous. “It produces this toxin that lyse red blood cells; it causes them to rupture and it’s very toxic to our kidneys,” she said, and could lead to kidney failure. 

Health investigators continue to interview people who have fallen ill as they look for the specific source of the contamination.

Pappaioanou says to see your healthcare provider if you’ve recently experienced vomiting, abdominal cramping or diarrhea. And if you have uneaten lettuce in the fridge and you’re not sure where it’s from, throw it out.

Year started with KUOW: 1994