Close to a Quarter of Lettuce-Related E. Coli Cases Were in California

The nationwide outbreak of E. Coli tied to romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona, has now sickened 45 people in California, according to state health officials.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday announced an update on the number of cases around the country: At least 197 people in 35 states have now become sick from the outbreak.

That was an increase of 25 cases since May 16.

The CDC says five people have died from the outbreak and 89 people have been hospitalized. Of those hospitalized, 26 have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

The first person reported to die in connection with the 0157:H7 E. coli strain was an 87-year-old man from Raymond, a community in Madera County, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

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State and county health officials have declined to identify the man.

The other fatalities were in New York, Minnesota and Arkansas.

Federal health officials say most of the recent cases involve people who ate lettuce from the Yuma growing region that was still on store shelves and others who had close contact with someone who was sick with the outbreak strain.

Initially, the CDC said there were 39 cases in California.

As of last Friday, the number jumped to 45, according to CDPH spokesman Corey Egel.

The state agency has also declined to provide a breakdown by county of E. Coli lettuce cases.

"To protect patient confidentiality, the California Department of Public Health is not releasing the county of residence of reported cases because many California counties have small populations," Egel said in an email.

Federal health officials say the illnesses took place between March 13 and May 12.

Most E. coli bacteria are not harmful. But health officials warn that some produce toxins can cause severe illness.

People who get sick from the bacteria can come down with symptoms several days after swallowing the germ. Many suffer bloody diarrhea, severe stomach cramps and vomiting.

In mid-May, the CDC announced that consumers can start buying romaine lettuce again because the product that's for sale now in restaurants and grocery stores is coming from the Salinas Valley.