E. coli outbreak possibly linked to sandwiches from Wendy’s

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The CDC says dozens have been infected in at least four states

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has begun a multi-state investigation regarding an outbreak of E. coli O157 infections, reportedly connected to food eaten at Wendy’s.

The agency said that 37 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157 have been reported from 4 states: Indiana (1), Michigan (15), Ohio (19), and Pennsylvania (2). As of Friday, a total of 10 people have been hospitalized, three of those who experienced a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. No deaths have been reported so far.

In its research, the CDC said that out of the 26 people it interviewed, 22 reported eating sandwiches at a Wendy’s restaurant the week leading up to their illness. 

By Saturday, Wendy’s had pulled lettuce from sandwiches from its Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania restaurants. 

The CDC said that its investigators are attempting to identify the source of the outbreak and whether or not romaine lettuce is the actual culprit. It said that its investigation includes determining whether Wendy’s was the only place the lettuce in question was served or if there are other restaurants where the lettuce might have been used.

“We are fully cooperating with public health authorities on their ongoing investigation of the regional E. coli outbreak reported in certain midwestern states,” Wendy’s said in a statement to ConsumerAffairs.

“While the CDC has not yet confirmed a specific food as the source of that outbreak, we are taking the precaution of removing the sandwich lettuce from restaurants in that region.”

Sandwiches, not salads

Wendy’s made made clear that the lettuce used in sandwiches is not the same lettuce used in its salads and salads are unaffected by its decision to pull the lettuce from sandwiches. 

Even though romaine lettuce has been connected to previous E. coli outbreaks, the CDC said that it is not suggesting that people stop eating romaine lettuce.

“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,” the agency said.

If you become ill

E. coli can be found in contaminated water or food, particularly raw vegetables and undercooked ground beef. The Mayo Clinic says that healthy adults usually recover from infection with E. coli O157:H7 within a week, but young children and older adults have a much greater risk of developing a life-threatening form of kidney failure.

The CDC says that the symptoms that someone infected by E. coli contamination can include:  

  • Diarrhea that lasts for more than three days 

  • Diarrhea that lasts for more than three days and is accompanied by a fever higher than 102˚F, bloody diarrhea, or experiencing so much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down and are not peeing much.

If anyone experiences those symptoms, the CDC would like to know because it could help it solve the outbreak. The agency asks that those people write down what they ate in the week before they got sick and report that to their local or state health department.

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