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E. coli outbreak tied to romaine declared over in Canada

The outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 tied to romaine lettuce appears to be over in Canada, but an investigation remains underway in the U.S., health officials said Wednesday.

In an update, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Canada’s Public Health Agency reported an end to the outbreak there. Canadian officials linked the outbreak to romaine lettuce, saying 42 people have been sickened, one of whom died.

The CDC on Wednesday, however, continued to avoid pinpointing romaine as the source, saying there’s no reason to avoid any particular food at this time.

Officials said a likely source is leafy greens, but officials have not yet identified a specific type eaten by those who became ill. The CDC, several state health departments, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are continuing to investigate, the agency said.

In the U.S., the outbreak has resulted in 24 infections in 15 states, including seven more illnesses added since the CDC first reported the outbreak Dec. 28. At that point, there were 17 sick in 13 states.

The last reported illness began on Dec. 12, the CDC said.

Leafy greens have a short shelf life, and it’s not likely contaminated greens tied to this outbreak are still available for sale, the CDC said in a statement.

Canada identified romaine as the source there, but the source of the romaine, and how or where it became contaminated, remains unknown. The CDC, however, said it believes the strain of E. coli involved in the outbreaks in both countries is closely related.

In the U.S., one victim has died after becoming ill in California, where four cases were reported, the highest number of any state.

Two people have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

Of 13 victims interviewed, all said they had some type of leafy green before becoming ill, the CDC said. Five of nine victims, or 56 percent, specifically reported eating romaine lettuce, but different types and brands. That percentage is not significantly higher than the 46 percent of healthy people who reported eating romaine lettuce the prior week, the CDC said.

“Based on this information, U.S. health officials concluded that ill people in this outbreak were not more likely than healthy people to have eaten romaine lettuce,” the CDC said