5 dead, almost 200 sickened in romaine lettuce outbreak

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Tainted romaine lettuce is being blamed for four more deaths, bringing the total to five deaths related to a strain of E. coli, say federal health officials.

In an update Friday, health officials said 25 more cases raised the total to 197 illnesses in 35 states, including MI.

It takes two to three weeks between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported to CDC.

Two deaths from the current outbreak occurred in Minnesota, and one each in Arkansas, California, and NY.

Health officials have tied the E. coli outbreak to romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona.

Officials said that first illness began sometime between March 13 and May 12.

It is the largest U.S. outbreak of E. coli since 200 people fell ill in 2006.

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After the initial outbreak, the CDC issued a warning on romaine lettuce.

Officials also noted that some of the individuals who became ill never actually consumed the contaminated lettuce but were in close contact with someone else who had done so.

"It is unlikely that any romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region is still available in stores or restaurants, due to its 21-day shelf life", said the FDA.

Numerous new cases were people who became ill two to three weeks ago, when contaminated lettuce was still being sold. 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 growing season in Yuma ended April 16.

Those infected with E. coli typically experience severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.

Most people recover within a week, but some illnesses can last longer and be more severe.

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