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CDC update on E. coli outbreak: Number of cases in Ohio has risen to 24

The CDC says there are now 97 reported cases in six states. Many sick people have reported eating sandwiches with romaine lettuce at Wendy’s restaurants.

CLEVELAND — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided an update on the outbreak of E. coli cases in Ohio and several surrounding states. 

The CDC says there are now 97 reported cases in six states, including Ohio. While a specific food has not yet been confirmed as the source of the outbreak, many sick people have reported eating sandwiches with romaine lettuce at Wendy’s restaurants in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania before getting sick. 

As a precaution, Wendy's has removed the romaine lettuce being used in sandwiches from restaurants in those states. The CDC says Wendy’s uses a different type of romaine lettuce for salads. Investigators 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 at other businesses. Wendy’s is fully cooperating with the investigation. 

The CDC says at this time, there is no evidence to indicate that romaine lettuce sold in grocery stores, served in other restaurants, or in people’s homes is linked to this outbreak.

Of the 97 cases that have been reported, 24 of them are in Ohio. When the the outbreak was first reported last month, three cases were in Lorain County, with two in Cuyahoga County, and one additional case in Summit County.

The CDC says the illnesses started on dates ranging from July 26 to August 15. But it takes three to four weeks to determine if a case is related to an outbreak, so there could be many more unreported cases out there.

Those people who are ill range in age from 3 to 94 years, with a median age of 22 years, and 55% are male. The CDC adds that of the 81 people with information available, 43 have been hospitalized and 10 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious condition that can cause kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.

Health officials have been interviewing people about the foods they ate in the week before they got sick. The CDC reports that among 67 people with detailed food histories, 54 (81%) reported eating at a Wendy’s restaurant in the week before their illness started. The Wendy’s restaurants where sick people ate are in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. People reported eating a variety of menu items, including burgers and sandwiches. Of 54 people with detailed information about what they ate at Wendy’s, 37 (69%) reported eating romaine lettuce served on burgers and sandwiches. 

"People who may have E. coli may have more severe symptoms, so we definitely recommend reaching out to a healthcare provider if you're experiencing diarrhea and a high fever beyond 102 degrees," advises Erin Murphy from Lorain County Public Health. 

You are also advised to call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these other severe E. coli symptoms:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • So much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down
  • Signs of dehydration, such as:
    • Not peeing much
    • Dry mouth and throat
    • Feeling dizzy when standing up

The Cuyahoga County Board of Health says they have not been brought in to investigate as of yet. The Ohio Department of Health does have a team working to find the cause of the illness. 

To prevent getting sick from E. coli, the CDC advises that you follow these four steps when handling or preparing food: clean, separate, cook, and chill.

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