Nearly a hundred people in 22 states have now been made sick from eating E. coli-contaminated romaine lettuce in the worst such outbreak since 2006, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than half of the 98 people affected have had symptoms so severe they required hospitalization.

Yuma is Ground Zero

The CDC is warning everyone to avoid eating romaine lettuce unless they know for sure that it is not from the Yuma, Arizona area – the likely source of the outbreak. Federal health officials are checking two dozen farms in that area and have confirmed that one, Harrison Farms of Yuma supplied the romaine lettuce that made eight prison inmates in Alaska ill. That was whole head lettuce, but the CDC said it’s possible that contaminated lettuce made its way into salad mixes as well.

“If you do not know whether lettuce is romaine, do not eat it,” said the agency in an advisory.

“Package labels often do not identify growing regions. CDC is advising consumers not to eat or buy romaine lettuce if they do not know where it was grown.”

Symptoms to watch for

This particular strain of E. coli is particularly virulent. Ten people have suffered kidney failure. The toxin also can cause bloody diarrhea, severe stomach cramps and vomiting - and in severe cases, a stroke. Symptoms generally appear three to four days after a person consumes the contaminated food. Most people recover within a week.

Anyone who feels they’ve been made sick from E. coli should see their doctor right away.