CDC: 5 dead, close to 200 sick in worst E. coli outbreak since 2006

Four additional people died and hundreds fell ill after an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday.

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Victims of the illness died in California, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Minnesota and New York, the CDC reported. The update came two weeks after the agency deemed romaine lettuce now available for sale as safe to eat
Officials with the CDC said the newest cases of the illness were likely victims who had eaten contaminated lettuce still on store shelves.

"Most of the people who recently became ill ate romaine lettuce when lettuce from the Yuma growing region was likely still available in stores, restaurants, or in peoples' homes," the CDC said in its update Friday. "Some people who became sick did not report eating romaine lettuce, but had close contact with someone else who got sick from eating romaine lettuce."

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Nearly 200 people from about 36 states have been sickened by the outbreak, which was first reported in mid-March, according to The Washington Post. Nearly half of the people sickened by E. coli were hospitalized, according to the CDC.

Around 26 people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a form of kidney failure that can be life-threatening to someone with weakened immune systems, like children and the elderly, according to The Post. The majority of people who fell ill from the outbreak live in California.

E. coli is a group of bacteria found in foods, the environment and in your intestines, according to the CDC. While most strains of E. coli won't make you sick, others can cause a variety of illnesses, including diarrhea, urinary tract infections and respiratory issues.

This latest E. coli outbreak marks the worst since 2006, when around 205 people became ill and five died after contracting E. coli from baby spinach, according to The Post.

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Federal investigators determined the E. coli outbreak started with contaminated lettuce grown in Arizona's Yuma region, but they were unable to link the outbreak to a specific farm.

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