E. coli cases by state in the outbreak linked to tainted romaine lettuce. Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Kentucky is now part of a multistate outbreak of E. coli — blamed on tainted romaine lettuce — that has sickened more than 100 people nationwide and led to dozens of hospitalizations and at least one death.

A federal update says Kentucky is among the latest three states to become part of the E. coli O157: H7 outbreak, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only lists one case in the commonwealth as of May 1.

According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the reported case involves a central Kentucky resident between the ages of 5 and 17. The individual was not hospitalized and did not develop further complications, a spokeswoman said.

The outbreak, involving a type of E. coli that can lead to kidney failure, is thought to be linked to romaine lettuce from Yuma, Ariz., according to the CDC.

“Do not eat or buy romaine lettuce unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, Arizona growing region,” the CDC advises. “Product labels often do not identify growing regions; so, do not eat or buy romaine lettuce if you do not know where it was grown.”

The advisory includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, baby romaine, organic romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce.

“If you do not know if the lettuce in a salad mix is romaine, do not eat it,” the CDC warns.

Twenty-five states have been affected by the outbreak, which has been blamed for at least 121 cases, and one death in California.

“Illnesses that occurred in the last two to three weeks might not yet be reported because of the time between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported to CDC,” the health organization noted.

Some people develop only a mild case, but others get severely ill. Symptoms, which typically arise within two to eight days of consuming the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, include diarrhea, which may be bloody; severe stomach cramps; and vomiting.

At least 14 people have developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome, according to the CDC. Symptoms include less frequent urination, tiredness and loss of pink color in the cheeks and inside the lower eyelids.

This post has been updated with comment from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Darla Carter is a hometown girl who recently joined the staff of Insider Louisville to mostly cover health. She previously served as a longtime health and fitness writer for The Courier-Journal, where she also worked for the Metro, Neighborhoods and Features departments. Prior to that, the award-winning journalist wrote for newspapers elsewhere in Kentucky and Tennessee, covering a range of topics, from education to courts. She's a graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she studied journalism and philosophy, and is the proud mom of two young children.


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