E.Coli infection comes to Mississippi

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, May 1, 2018

A nationwide outbreak of E. coli infection linked to romaine lettuce now includes Mississippi.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that escherichia coli or E. coli is a type of bacteria usually found in the intestines of people and animals, the environment and certain food items.

Ongoing investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CDC indicates that romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona region is potentially contaminated by E. coli.

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Jeff. R Buntin, a nurse practitioner at Highland Community Hospital said people should avoid purchasing romaine lettuce for the time being.

Buntin said the bacteria has several strains, a few of which are beneficial.

The current E. coli outbreak is possibly due to a lack of hygienic standards, including the presence of rodents and animals that could transmit the bacteria where the produce was being processed or stored. Unwashed hands used in the harvesting and packaging of the lettuce could also be contributing factors, he said.

Buntin said a common symptom of E. coli is diarrhea. The bacteria has an incubation period of one to three days. While vomiting is not typically associated with E. coli, in severe cases the diarrhea could last for a week.

Dawn Vosbein, Pearl River County extension agent and registered dietitian, said younger children can suffer damage to the liver as a result of infection. Long-term effects include gastrointestinal problems, she said.

Buntin recommends purchasing heads of lettuce that can be washed instead of buying chopped packaged lettuce. To kill the bacteria, be sure to properly cook meat and other food items before consumption, he said.

Buntin said there is a 10 percent chance of the bacteria causing severe complications, although most people tend to gradually get better on their own. 

“Stay hydrated at all times and if complications arise seek immediate medical attention,” he said.