April 20 (UPI) -- All store-bought romaine lettuce should be discarded because of a nationwide E. coli outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised.
Sixteen states have reported E. coli infections thus far. The source of the infection has not been identified, but the CDC said Wednesday that restaurants and retailers should stop serving salads and salad mixes with lettuce "from the Yuma, Ariz., growing region."
It added that there have been 53 reported infections, including 18 in the past several days. The CDC said "nine more hospitalizations have been reported, including two people who developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome."
A total of 31 hospitalizations have occurred thus far. Pennsylvania has the most reported infections, with 12.
The Yuma area is under investigation because romaine lettuce is harvested there this time of the year. No fatalities have been reported, but a New Jersey woman filed a lawsuit against Panera Bread earlier this week. She said she was sickened by contaminated lettuce after eating there and was hospitalized for two weeks.
New cases in Arizona, Alaska, California, Montana and Louisiana were reported to the CDC this week, following reports of illnesses largely in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states.
The E. coli is "toxin-producing," the CDC said citing the Shiga toxin. People who swallow the germ contract symptoms of diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting within two to eight days. Ingesting the toxin could lead to kidney failure. Regular hand washing, washing fruits and vegetables and avoiding raw milk are recommended.