LOS ANGELES (CBS) — As the recent E. coli outbreak turned deadly this week, fears of eating romaine lettuce are spreading.
The U.S. Centers For Disease Control announced Wednesday one person in California had died as a result of consuming the tainted lettuce originating in Yuma, Arizona, the impact of which has reached 25 states. So far, 121 people have become ill from the unusually powerful type of Escherichia coli 0157.
Locally, it has some consumers shaken.
“We all stopped eating the lettuce. We said, ‘That’s it,'” shopper Ruby Martin told CBS2 News Wednesday. “We’re not eating any more salads, at least romaine lettuce.”
“It’s actually stopped me from buying lettuce,” echoed Gabby Hernandez. “It’s out there now, so you have to be cautious with what you feed your children.”
It’s a plan of action health professionals are pushing.
“It’s unusual because normally you have to ingest tens of thousands of bacteria to actually get sick, but this organism — 10, 20, 100 will get you sick,” said Jim Keany, MD, an emergency room doctor at Mission Hospital in Orange County.
The bacteria are so powerful, no amount of washing or disinfecting can make romaine lettuce safe.
“There is no disinfectant that can really get into all the crevices and cracks and all the surfaces on things like lettuce, sprouts or other vegetables,” said Keany. “The only way to kill it is through cooking.”
The CDC has not pinpointed the exact farm in Arizona where the outbreak began, but the agency s warning people to play it safe and throw away all romaine lettuce.
“E. coli can be treated with antibiotics. Usually, most antibiotics will kill it, but in the case of 0157, you actually can make it worse,” warned Keany. “You’re 17 times more likely to go into renal failure or kidney failure if you’re treated with antibiotics than not.”