16 people in California fall ill due to E. coli in romaine lettuce

Posted at 5:20 PM, Apr 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-30 20:20:34-04

In one week, 16 people in California have gotten ill from eating romaine lettuce contaminated with E. coli.

There are no known cases in San Luis Obispo County but the health department has issued a warning.

As of April 26, a total of 98 people across the country have been infected with a strain of E. coli.

“E. coli is a bacteria that exists in the world and sometimes it just takes hold in a particular growing area. It could be transmitted through eating or through cooking," said Dr. Penny Borenstein, San Luis Obispo County Health Officer. 

It is believed that romaine lettuce from Yuma, Arizona could be contaminated.

So far, there are 22 states reporting people who have become ill. California has the most.

That’s why the health department recommends that you not eat or buy romaine lettuce unless you can confirm where it was grown.

“I know where my lettuce comes from, so I can say, ‘yup, that’s not me.’ You can have a Caesar salad or a chopped salad here," said Greg Holt, owner of Big Sky Café.

Holt said the lettuce his restaurant serves is purchased locally.

"The lettuce I am serving today you can drive 20 minutes and walk through that field," Holt said. 

Despite there being no E. coli cases locally, some San Luis Obispo residents are avoiding romaine lettuce as a whole.

“I am using green leaf instead of romaine until the scare is over," said Shawn Thomas, San Luis Obispo resident.

Others have found other alternatives to purchasing produce.

"My boyfriend, he is a gardener, we grow our own grains and vegetables, we know what’s in them and where they’ve been grown," said Sandra Gaytan.  

Health officials say there are symptoms to look out for.

"Very significant diarrhea, vomiting, often bloody stool and it can result in severe kidney problems and hospitalization," Borenstein said.

Forty-six people have been hospitalized due to the E.coli outbreak, including 10 people who have developed a type of kidney failure.

No deaths have been reported.

People are asked to report any E. coli illnesses to their local health department.