SPRINGFIELD – Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, today issued a warning about an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7, a specific strain of E. coli, in multiple states that may be associated with the consumption of bagged spinach. Preliminary epidemiological evidence suggests that bagged fresh spinach may be a possible cause of this outbreak.
“To date there are no cases in Illinois of anyone becoming sick with E. coli after eating bagged fresh spinach, but an investigation is on-going,” said Dr. Whitaker. “We advise people to err on the side of caution and not eat bagged fresh spinach. Anyone who thinks they may have experienced symptoms of illness after eating bagged fresh spinach are urged to contact their health care provider.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has sent a health advisory to local health departments and hospitals alerting health care providers of the severity of this illness and the seriousness of the outbreak.
E. coli O157:H7 is a virulent strain compared to other strains of E. coli. It causes diarrhea, often with bloody stools. Although most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, some people can develop a form of kidney failure called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). HUS is most likely to occur in young children and the elderly. The condition can lead to serious kidney damage and even death. To date, 50 cases of illness have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including 8 cases of HUS and one death.
The U.S. FDA investigation is ongoing and states that have reported illnesses to date include: Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin.