The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating an outbreak of E. coli in 13 states, including Michigan, officials announced.
Seventeen illnesses have been reported, including one case in Michigan. Other states affected include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont and Washington. The Public Health Agency of Canada is also investigating outbreaks in several provinces.
The CDC reports illnesses started Nov. 15 through Dec. 8 and say the food item in common among sick people could include leafy greens and romaine lettuce. The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak in that country.
“Because we have not identified a source of the infections, CDC is unable to recommend whether U.S. residents should avoid a particular food. This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released as it becomes available,” according to the CDC statement.
E. coli produces a toxin that in some cases can lead to serious illness, kidney failure and even death. People usually get sick three to four days after eating food contaminated with the germ. Most people develop diarrhea (often bloody) and stomach cramps.
Five people in the U.S. have been hospitalized and one has died, according to the CDC. Two people have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.
As of Dec. 28, Canada issued a public health notice announcing 41 cases of E. coli were under investigation in the eastern provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador. Sixteen individuals have been hospitalized. One individual has died.
"During a foodborne outbreak investigation, officials collect three types of data: epidemiologic, traceback, and food and environmental testing. Health officials assess all of these data to try to find the likely source of the outbreak," said spokeswoman Kate Fowlie. "There is not enough epidemiologic or traceback evidence at this time to indicate a specific source of illnesses in the United States."