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More Cases in E. Coli Outbreak Tied to Wendy’s Restaurant Lettuce

By Ernie Mundell HealthDay Reporter
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Sept. 2 (HealthDay News) — A total of 97 people in six states have now been made sick with E. coli, possibly caused by contaminated lettuce used in sandwiches sold at Wendy’s restaurants.

“Since the last update on August 25, 2022, 13 more diseases have been reported to CDC,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an updated statement released Thursday. Two states — Kentucky and New York (with one case each) — have now been added to the list of states reporting cases, which also include Michigan (58 cases), Ohio (24), Indiana (11) and Pennsylvania (2).

Diseases from infection with the gastrointestinal bacteria have often been severe.

“Of 81 people with available information, 43 have been hospitalized and 10 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious condition that can cause kidney failure,” the CDC said, although “no deaths have been reported.”

The exact source of the outbreak has still not been officially confirmed, but the CDC said that in 67 cases when researchers asked what people had eaten in the week before they got sick, 81% reported eating at Wendy’s.

“Of 54 people with detailed information about what they ate at Wendy’s, 37 [69%] reported eating romaine lettuce served on burgers and sandwiches,” the agency noted.

On August 19, Wendy’s announced it had removed romaine lettuce from its sandwiches in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“Wendy’s is taking the precaution of removing the romaine lettuce used in sandwiches from restaurants in that region,” the CDC said at the time. “Researchers are working to confirm whether romaine lettuce is the source of this outbreak and whether romaine lettuce used in Wendy’s sandwiches was served or sold by other companies.”

Romaine lettuce sold in grocery stores doesn’t appear to be affected, the CDC said, and people can still eat at Wendy’s and eat the romaine lettuce in the salads it sells. Wendy’s explains in a statement that the lettuce used in its salads is not the same as that used in its sandwiches.

“We are fully cooperating with public health authorities in their ongoing investigation of the regional E. coli outbreak reported in select Midwestern states,” the company said at the time. “While the CDC has not yet confirmed that a specific food is the source of that outbreak, we are taking the precaution of throwing out and replacing the sandwich lettuce at some restaurants in that region.”

Most people with an E. coli infection “get sick for 3 to 4 days after eating or drinking something containing the bacteria,” according to the CDC. “However, diseases can start anywhere from 1 to 10 days after exposure.” Illnesses usually last 5 to 7 days.

What must we do:

  • Watch for symptoms of severe E. coli, including diarrhea lasting more than three days or diarrhea accompanied by a fever over 102˚F, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and inability to urinate.
  • If you experience these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
  • Keep track of what and where you ate in the week before you got sick and report it to your local or state health department.

More information

For more information about the outbreak, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, press release, Aug. 25, 2022; Wendy’s, statement, August 19, 2022