Coli outbreak over, Understanding the outbreak

Officials are investigating how the outbreak strain of E. coli bacteria got into an irrigation canal

Tainted irrigation water appears to be the source of a national food poisoning outbreak linked to romaine lettuce, health officials said Thursday.

CDC researchers found that the identified strain of E. coli in the water samples was closely related to the strain found in people who became sick from eating contaminated lettuce.

"To date, CDC analysis of samples taken from canal water in the region has identified the presence of E. coli. with the same genetic fingerprint as the outbreak strain", the FDA said.

Investigators are now working to learn how the E. coli got into the water, and how the water, in turn, contaminated the romaine lettuce from several farms. We have also identified additional strains of shiga-toxin producing E. coli in collected samples, but initial testing of these isolates indicates they are different than the outbreak strain. Single deaths were reported from Arkansas, California and NY, and two people died in Minnesota.

CDC, FDA, local and state agencies are still investigating how the canals came to be contaminated. The outbreak, which started in the spring, is now over, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

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A final CDC report on the outbreak reveals that a total of 210 people were infected, 96 hospitalized, and 27 developed a kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.

In 2006, almost 200 people were sickened by tainted spinach in 26 states; a single California produce company was at the center of that outbreak.

Lettuce being processed in Yuma, Arizona, in 2015. The vaccine was field-tested near the end of the major 2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, The New York Times reported. The highest number of reported illnesses was in March and April of this year, but some are still trickling in, with one even reported in June. Other canals are being tested, but no results have been announced. Other kinds of E. coli cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia.

"The answer to that question is that we don't believe we are seeing more outbreaks", Gottlieb said.

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