Ahead of Thanksgiving, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a food safety alert over romaine lettuce contaminated with. There are now at least 67 cases of E. coli spread across 19 states and at least 39 people have been hospitalized.
Infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner at Vanderbilt said young children and the elderly are most at risk. Symptoms like cramping and diarrhea can start anywhere from two to eight days after eating contaminated food. Five to 10% of people diagnosed with E. coli can also suffer kidney damage.
"There is usually no fever, so it can be subtle and people don't recognize it as an infectious cause right away," Schaffner said.
The CDC is urging people and stores to throw away all romaine products from Salinas, California, the suspected source of the contamination. If you don't know where it's from, don't eat it. Also, wash and sanitize where romaine lettuce was stored.
"This is a Thanksgiving holiday which will be essentially romaine-free," Schaffner said.
Schaffner believes we will see more cases over the next week or so because people may not realize this particular type of romaine lettuce may still be in their fridge.