PHOENIX - Nearly three dozen people across 11 states have been sickened this week by lettuce traced to Yuma, Arizona.
Though no deaths have been reported, the Centers for Disease Control said Friday that 35 people have been affected by the outbreak — 22 of whom have been hospitalized.
A common grower, supplier, distributor or brand of lettuce have not been identified.
Learn more about E. coli and what you can do to stay safe:
What is E. coli?
E. coli (Escherichia coli), is a type of bacteria that normally lives in the intestines of humans and animals, according to Web MD. Some strains of the bacteria are harmless and could even help your digestive system, but some strains can make you sick. That type of E. coli can be transmitted through contaminated water, food or contact with animals or people.
How long does it take to become ill?
The CDC says the period between exposure and sickness is usually 3-4 days after the exposure. In some cases, that period could be as short as one day or as long as 10 days.
What are the symptoms?
Web MD says the most common symptoms are:
Diarrhea, which may be bloody
Fever is also a possible symptom, but in most cases it will be slight if at all. Most people will start to feel better after a week, but in severe cases the sickness can affect the kidneys and cause kidney failure. Three people have experienced kidney failure in the E. coli outbreak from Arizona-grown lettuce, the CDC said.
Can you die from E. coli infection?
In those severe cases where exposure to E. coli causes kidney failure, people can die if they do not seek professional medical care.
What should I do if I have lettuce that could be from Yuma?
The Arizona Department of Health Services is advising residents to dispose of store-bought chopped romaine lettuce. This includes salads and salad mixes containing chopped romaine lettuce.
If I live with someone who is sick, do I need to take additional precautions?
Not all strains of E. coli are contagious but ones that cause gastrointestinal problems are. When someone you live with is sick, you can prevent E. coli from spreading by washing your hands and keeping surfaces and frequently used objects clean.
When should I contact my doctor?
A doctor can confirm an E. coli infection with a simple stool sample. People who are experiencing diarrhea that isn’t getting better after three days, have a high fever or blood in stool should see a doctor.
How is exposure to E. coli treated?
The infection will mostly go away on its own. Your doctor may provide you with antibiotics, depending on your symptoms. According to Web MD, it is not advised you take over-the-counter medication to fight diarrhea because it can prolong your infection.
Rest and drinking plenty of fluids to replace what your body is losing through vomiting or diarrhea is some of the best treatment.
How can E. coli be avoided?
According to the CDC, the best ways to prevent an E. coli infection are:
- Wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before preparing or eating food. Wash your hands after contact with animals or their environments (at farms, petting zoos, fairs, even your own backyard).
- Cook meats thoroughly. Ground beef and meat that has been needle-tenderized should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160°F. It’s best to use a thermometer, as color is not a very reliable indicator of “doneness.”
- Avoid raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices (like fresh apple cider).
- Avoid swallowing water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and backyard “kiddie” pools.
- Prevent cross contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat.