There are now 39 people confirmed sick in one of three mystery E. coli O157:H7outbreaks currently under investigation by federal agencies. Leafy greens are under particular scrutiny.

Since the most recent update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was on Oct. 28, there have been 16 people added to the patient tally. The sick people span 18 states. No states have confirmed any deaths in this outbreak. The new numbers are current as of Nov. 19, according to the CDC’s Nov. 23 update.

“State and local public health officials are interviewing ill people to determine what they ate and other exposures in the week before they got sick. Of the 22 ill people interviewed to date, all reported eating a variety of leafy greens, like spinach with 16, romaine lettuce with 15, iceberg lettuce with 12, and mixed bag lettuce with 8. No single type or brand of leafy greens or other food item has been identified as the source of this outbreak. CDC is not advising people to avoid any particular food at this time,” according to the outbreak update.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from Aug. 10 through Oct. 23. Ill people range in age from 1 to 85 years, with a median age of 38 years, and 62 percent are female. Of 30 ill people with information available, 19 were hospitalized and four developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure that can be fatal.

Illnesses might not yet be reported because of the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. This takes up to four weeks. Please see the Timeline for Reporting Cases of E. coli O157 Infection for more details.

Investigators are continuing to collect different types of data to identify the source of this outbreak.

About E. Coli infections
Anyone who has developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

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