At least 37 people have gotten sick in an E. coli outbreak in the Midwest, and the CDC is investigating if romaine lettuce served by Wendy’s restaurants is the cause.
It’s likely the true size of the outbreak is larger; people generally recover from E. coli without medical care and aren’t tested. But ten of the confirmed cases have required hospitalization, and the bacteria can cause a type of kidney failure.
The CDC said it’s still investigating the cause of the outbreak, but as of Aug. 19., 22 people said they had eaten at Wendy’s locations in Michigan, Ohio, or Pennsylvania in the week before they became sick. Of those people, many said they’d eaten a burger or sandwich with romaine lettuce, and Wendy’s has removed romaine from its menus in that region as a precaution, the CDC said.
The people in the outbreak range in age from 6 to 91 years old, but most were young adults with a median age of 21.
The CDC isn’t recommending that people stop eating at Wendy’s or avoid eating lettuce more broadly at this time. The fast food chain uses a different type of lettuce for its salads. There’s also no evidence yet that romaine served by other restaurants or sold at grocery stores is contaminated, the CDC said, but it’s continuing to investigate if any other chains use the same source of romaine as Wendy’s in the Midwest.
E. coli causes severe stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. People should call their doctor if they have diarrhea for more than 3 days without improvement, if it’s bloody, or if they also have a fever of more than 102 degrees. They should also seek medical attention if they’re vomiting so much they’re unable to keep liquids down or if they’re showing signs of dehydration.
An E. coli outbreak involving romaine lettuce swept across the US in 2018, and more than 200 people got sick. Five of them died.