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CDC: Don’t eat romaine lettuce and take action if you have E. coli infection symptoms

CDC: Don’t eat romaine lettuce and take action if you have E. coli infection symptoms
[Photos: Flickr user Marco Verch; NIAID/Wikimedia Commons]

The CDC issued a food safety alert today warning Americans not to eat romaine lettuce–and warning restaurants not to serve it–after the salad favorite was linked to an outbreak of Escherichia coli in 11 states. As the agency investigates the outbreak, it said anyone with romaine lettuce in their house should throw it away, even if no one has gotten sick from it.

So far, 32 cases of E. coli infection have been reported, and 13 people have been hospitalized.  The outbreak is mostly concentrated around the Northeast, Midwest, and California, but the CDC says everyone should heed the warning until more information becomes available. Canadian health officials have also reported E. coli infections with the same DNA fingerprint.

The warning applies to all types of romaine lettuce, including full heads and that kind you get in those prepackaged bags.

Symptoms of an E. coli infection vary from person to person, but most often include severe stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes a mild fever. Infections are often mild, but can sometimes be life-threatening. Most people start to feel symptoms about three or four days after exposure, but they can show up anywhere from one to 10 days.

If you feel like you may be infected, the CDC requests that you do the following:

  • Talk to your healthcare provider
  • Write down what you ate in the week before you started to get sick
  • Report your illness to the health department
  • Assist public health investigators by answering questions about your illness

Irrespective of all the people on Twitter making funny puns like “lettuce romaine calm,” this is pretty serious stuff. You can read the full safety alert here.

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