National News

Deadly E. Coli Outbreak Tied to Leafy Greens Likely Over, CDC Says

Posted January 11, 2018 1:10 p.m. EST

A pair of fatal E. coli outbreaks linked to leafy greens in the United States and Canada appear to be over, health experts said Wednesday.

U.S. officials said that the American outbreak was most likely caused by “leafy greens,” and their counterparts in Canada specifically identified romaine lettuce as the source of the infections there.

The last reported illness in the United States was Dec. 12, suggesting that the risk of buying food contaminated in the current outbreak had passed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement Wednesday.

“Leafy greens typically have a short shelf life, and since the last illness started a month ago, it is likely that contaminated leafy greens linked to this outbreak are no longer available for sale,” the agency said.

Tests revealed that the bacterial strains to blame for at least 66 reported illnesses across both countries were closely genetically related, though that similarity alone was not enough to credit a common cause, officials in the United States said.

At least 24 infections were reported in the United States, and 42 were reported in Canada, according to public health officials in each country. One person died in California, and another died in Canada.

Neither country had identified where or how the contaminations occurred and neither agency recommends avoiding any food related to the outbreaks.

Symptoms of illness typically appear within one to three days of being exposed to the E. coli strain, officials in the United States said. And it usually takes about two to three weeks from when an illness strikes for it to be included in an outbreak, officials said. That delay can be exacerbated around holidays.

Of 13 people interviewed by state and local public health officials in the United States, all had reported eating leafy greens, according to the CDC. At least five who had fallen ill reported eating romaine lettuce.

While the outbreak appears to have passed, officials in the United States said they are still investigating the source.