The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is working with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and public health agencies in other states to investigate an outbreak of E. coli O157 infections associated with eating romaine lettuce.

Information on the national outbreak can be found on the CDC’s website: Outbreak of E. coli Infections Linked to Romaine Lettuce.

One case of E. coli O157 infection in a Minnesota resident, who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and is hospitalized, has recently been identified and linked to the multi-state outbreak. Nationally, there are 40 cases from 16 states; 65% are female. Cases range in age from 3 to 89 years. Currently, illness onset dates range from Sept. 4 through Nov. 10, but additional cases are under investigation. Twenty-eight cases were hospitalized, and five developed HUS, a potentially fatal complication that can include kidney failure and other severe problems. MDH is investigating additional E. coli O157 cases potentially connected to this outbreak.

The Minnesota case interviewed by public health investigators reported eating romaine lettuce. The investigation to identify a specific source is ongoing.

Health officials warn people not to eat, buy, or sell romaine lettuce from the Salinas growing region. Check your refrigerator for romaine lettuce that may have been grown in the Salinas region. If you have it, throw it out. Most romaine products are labeled with a harvest location, but if you don’t know where the romaine lettuce was grown, don’t eat or buy it.

Symptoms of illness caused by E. coli O157 typically include stomach cramps and diarrhea, often with bloody stools, but only a low-grade or no fever. People typically become ill two to five days after exposure, but this period can range from one to eight days. Most people recover in five to 10 days. However, E. coli O157 infections sometimes lead to HUS. Those most at risk of developing complications from E. coli O157 include children younger than 10, older adults and those with weakened immune systems.

Diarrhea associated with E. coli O157 infections should not be treated with antibiotics, as this practice might promote the development of HUS. Anyone who believes they may have developed an E. coli O157 infection should contact their health care provider.

Approximately 120 cases of E. coli O157 infection are reported each year in Minnesota. More information on E. coli O157 and how to prevent it can be found on the MDH E. coli website.