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Lettuce-linked E. coli sickens 10 Minnesotans

 Ten Minnesotans became ill from eating romaine lettuce, the Minnesota Department of Health reported on Tuesday. Two of them developed a potentially fatal complication.

The illnesses are part of a multistate outbreak linked to romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Ariz., region, the health department reported in a news release. In a May 2 update, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 121 illnesses connected to E. coli O157 in lettuce had been reported in 25 states. One death was reported in California, and 52 people had been hospitalized nationwide.

Nine of the 10 Minnesotans with illnesses connected to eating the lettuce were female, according to the health department; they were from both the metro Twin Cities region and from Greater Minnesota. Three were hospitalized, including two who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially fatal complication that can include kidney failure and other severe problems.

Minnesotans were exposed to the lettuce in restaurants, grocery stores and residential facilities, according to the health department.

A spokesman for one of Minnesota's largest supermarket chains said lettuce from the Yuma region hadn't been sold in its stores.

"As such, we haven't pulled product from our shelves, and we encourage shoppers to feel confident in continuing to purchase their produce (romaine) from our stores," wrote Jeff Swanson, vice president for corporate communications at Eden Prairie-based Supervalu, in an email. The Supervalu company includes the Cub Foods store in Duluth.

A query to Miners Inc., which owns Super One stores, wasn't responded to in time for this story.

Romaine lettuce shouldn't be sold, purchased or eaten unless it can be confirmed that it's not from the Yuma region, said Kirk Smith, manager of the health department's foodborne, waterborne, vector borne and zoonotic diseases section. The Yuma growing region includes part of western Arizona and extends into the Imperial Valley of southeastern California.

Lettuce from the Yuma region should no longer be on sale, but people should check their refrigerators for lettuce that may have been grown in that region, the health department said. The source of the lettuce isn't typically marked on the packaging, so if there's doubt it should be thrown out, the CDC said.

Symptoms of illness caused by E. coli O157 typically include stomach cramps and diarrhea, often with bloody stools, but with only a low-grade fever, or no fever, according to the health department. People typically fall ill two to five days after exposure, and most recover in five to 10 days if they don't develop complications. Children younger than 10, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are the most likely to develop complications.

Diarrhea from E. coli O157 shouldn't be treated with antibiotics, because that might promote the development of HUS, according to the health department. Anyone who believes they may have developed the infection should contact their health provider.

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