The Public Health Agency of Canada reports 21 cases of E. coliinfection in three provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Quebec. The wave of infections is linked to the consumption of romaine lettuce.
Thirteen of these cases were identified in Newfoundland and Labrador, 5 in New Brunswick and 3 in Quebec.
No deaths occurred, but 10 of those 21 were hospitalized. The sick people, 15 women and 6 men, are between 5 and 72 years old.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the 13 people affected were diagnosed with E. coli between November 18 and 26. Four of them were hospitalized.
Most infected people report having eaten romaine lettuce before experiencing the first symptoms.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is working with public health authorities to determine the source of this wave of infections. No products have yet been recalled.
Preventing E. coli infection
Health Canada indicates that the risk of E. coli infection is low, but recommends basic precautionary measures:
- wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds before and after handling lettuce;
- rinse the lettuce with fresh tap water until no more soiled or dirty;
- do not soak lettuce in a sink because bacteria can contaminate it;
- clean the countertops, cutting boards and utensils with soap and water before and after handling lettuce to avoid cross-contamination;
- keep the lettuce in the refrigerator until 7 days or until the leaves become brown or wilted.
Packaged and prewashed lettuce does not need to be cleaned, but must be refrigerated and consumed before its expiry date.
An E. coli infection can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, mild fever, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Most symptoms disappear after 5 to 10 days. Deaths are rare, but possible.
Nancy Miller (MD) has over 20 years experience as a educator and health practitioner. She has a B.S. from Lake Head University In Thunder Bay, and a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Guelph . Dr. Miller has worked as a special medical consultant for a major insurance provider before becoming a freelance health author and public speaker. There are several ways to contact Dr. Miller here.