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Romaine lettuce likely cause of E coli illnesses, deaths in US, Canada

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The Public Health Agency of Canada and the CDC have pinpointed romaine lettuce as the source of the E. coli outbreak

One person in each country has died.

Canadian health authorities identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak in Canada, but the investigation in the U.S.is still ongoing.

Over the past seven weeks, at least 58 people in the United States and Canada have been sickened and two have died from a risky strain of Escherichia coli (E coli) bacteria, likely from romaine lettuce. The Public Health Agency of Canada has been investigating the outbreak of E coli infections in several provinces.

Meanwhile, Consumer Reports has a made staunch warning to avoid eating romaine lettuce, at least until more information is made available about the outbreak.

The CDC said their preliminary findings show the E. coli type in both the USA and Canada is "closely related genetically". However, the type of E. coli making people ill resembles that linked to a similar recent outbreak in Canada, where the Public Health Agency of Canada identified romaine lettuce as the source, the CDC said. "Individuals in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador should consider consuming other types of lettuce, instead of romaine lettuce, until more is known about the outbreak and the cause of contamination".

However, there are certain strains of E. coli that can cause illnesses such as the Shiga toxin-producing strain of E. coli, which is often heard of in relation to food-related outbreaks.

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State and local officials are interviewing people who became infected, the CDC says, to look for common threads in what they ate-including leafy greens and romaine lettuce-in the week before their illness started.

However, on its website, it said, "We have not identified a source of the infections, thus is unable to recommend whether United States residents should avoid a particular food".

"There is not enough epidemiologic evidence at this time to indicate a specific source of the illnesses in the United States", Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokeswoman.

UnsafeFoods will continue to report on this outbreak and any potential recalls as more information is released. People can be exposed to E. coli from contaminated water or food, the Mayo Clinic said. In the United States, the illness has occurred in 13 states, including California.

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