Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that Thursday E. coli O157: The epidemic of H7 linked to Roman lettuce is over. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the latest Roman lettuce shipments from the Yuma region were harvested on April 16, 2018 and the harvest season is over. The contaminated lettuce that has made people sick in this outbreak should no longer be available.
In total, 210 cases from 36 states were reported. Ninety-six people required hospitalization and 5 people died – Arkansas, California, Minnesota (2) and New York.
The epidemic also affected our neighbors to the north with eight Canadian diseases reported in five provinces: British Columbia (1), Alberta (1), Saskatchewan (2), Ontario (3) and Quebec (1) .
FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD has elaborated the epidemic survey the same day it was declared:
The FDA, CDC and state officials Arizona continue to analyze samples from the Yuma region collected at the beginning of June and the first results are starting to become available. Several environmental samples of channel water in the area have been found to contain E. coli O157: H7 which genetically corresponds to the strain of bacteria that caused the epidemic. We have also identified additional strains of E. coli that produce shiga toxin in collected samples, but initial tests of these isolates indicate that they are different from the epidemic strain.
These initial positive samples represent another piece of the puzzle. More work is needed to determine how and why this strain of E. coli O157: H7 could have entered this mirror of water and how this led to the contamination of Roman lettuce from multiple farms. Together with our partners, we will continue to evaluate these results, their meanings and determine which further efforts can help us better understand this outbreak. We are committed to continuing to share updates on our progress.
Dr Gottlieb also highlighted scientific advances, new information technologies and laboratory techniques used to protect the public from outbreaks.
The simple count of outbreaks from year to year is not an effective way to determine if the number of outbreaks is increasing, decreasing, remaining constant, or to determine if our food is becoming safer or not. Paradoxically, the number of epidemics can increase as we are now able to identify the problems that had previously been invisible to us.
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