The Public Health Agency of Canada is asking residents in Ontario to avoid eating romaine lettuce due to an ongoing E. coli outbreak.
The government health agency said exposure to romaine lettuce has been identified as a source of the outbreak, but the cause of contamination has not been identified. However, health officials believe the incident is related to illnesses reported in a previous E. coli outbreak from December 2017, which suggests there may be a reoccurring source of contamination.
As of November 20, 2018, there have been 18 confirmed romaine lettuce-induced cases of E. coli illness investigated -- three in Ontario and 15 in Quebec -- all of whom ranged in age from five to 93. Six of those individuals were hospitalized and one individual suffered from hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a severe complication that can result from an E. coli infection. No deaths have been reported.
The outbreak strain, known as E. coli O157, is more likely than others to cause severe illness. Pregnant women, those with weakened immune systems, young children and older adults are the demographics who are most at risk for developing serious complications due to E. coli-related illness.
There is no evidence to suggest that residents in other parts of Canada are affected by this outbreak, the health agency said.
The government health agency said it is working with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada, as well as the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA), to investigate the outbreak in Ontario, Quebec, and several U.S. states.