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E-coli outbreak in lettuce has spread to Mississippi. Here's what you need to know.

Mississippi has now joined the rest of the country in the current romaine lettuce scare.

According to The Associated Press, health officials said Friday the outbreak has now spread to Mississippi, Tennessee and Wisconsin. The outbreak is blamed on the O157:H7 strain of E. coli bacteria in romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona.

Of the 98 cases in 22 states, there have been 46 hospitalizations with 10 people "developing a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome." According to the CDC, ages range from 1 to 88. No deaths have been reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday there was one case in Mississippi. The highest concentration of cases has been reported in California and Pennsylvania, followed by New Jersey, Idaho and Montana. Louisiana, Tennessee and Georgia have also reported cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People who have become sick with E. coli will begin to feel the symptoms between two and eight days after consumption of the contaminated food. Early symptoms may include bloody diarrhea, fever, nausea and vomiting.

The CDC has issued the following list of advice to consumers:

  • Do not eat or buy romaine lettuce unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region.
  • Product labels often do not identify growing regions; so, do not eat or buy it if you are uncertain about where it was grown.
  • This advice includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce. If you do not know if the lettuce in a salad mix is romaine, do not eat it.
  • Take action if you have symptoms of an E. coli infection:
    • Talk to your healthcare provider.
    • Write down what you ate in the week before you started to get sick.
    • Report your illness to the health department.
    • Assist public health investigators by answering questions about your illness.
  • Follow these general ways to prevent E. coli infection:
    • Wash your hands. Wash hands after using the restroom or changing diapers, before and after preparing or eating food, and after contact with animals.
    • Don’t prepare food or drink for others when you are sick.
    • Cook meats thoroughly to kill harmful germs. Cook steaks and roasts to at least 145˚F and let rest for 3 minutes after you remove meat from the grill or stove. Cook ground beef and pork to at least 160˚F. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the meat.
    • Don’t cross-contaminate food preparation areas. Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat.
    • Wash fruits and vegetables before eating, unless the package says the contents have been washed.
    • Avoid raw milk, other unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices.

The outbreak is the largest in the U.S. in 12 years.

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2326, @patrickochs
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