FREDERICTON (GNB) – A case of E. coli has been confirmed in New Brunswick.

“The likely source of the outbreak has been identified as romaine lettuce,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health. “New Brunswickers should avoid eating romaine lettuce and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce until more is known about the outbreak and the cause of contamination.”

The Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health is working closely with Public Health Agency of Canada and public health officials from Ontario, Quebec, several American states and the federal government on this issue.

The following tips will help reduce the risk of an E. coli infection, but they will not fully eliminate the risk of illness:

•           Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, before and after handling lettuce.

•           Unwashed lettuce, including whole heads of lettuce sold in sealed bags, should be handled and washed using these steps:

o   Discard outer leaves of fresh lettuce.

o   Wash unpackaged lettuce under fresh, cool running water. There is no need to use anything other than water to wash lettuce. Washing it gently with water is as effective as using produce cleansers.

o   Keep rinsing your lettuce until all of the dirt has been washed away.

o   Do not soak lettuce in a sink full of water. It can become contaminated by bacteria in the sink.

o   Store lettuce in the refrigerator for up to seven days. Discard when leaves become wilted or brown.

o   Use warm water and soap to thoroughly wash all utensils, countertops, cutting boards and storage containers before and after handling lettuce to avoid cross-contamination.

•           Ready-to-eat lettuce products sold in sealed packages and labelled as washed, pre-washed or triple washed do not need to be washed again. These products should also be refrigerated and used before the expiration date.

Symptoms usually appear within three to four days after a person is infected. Most persons who become ill have frequent diarrhea and stomach cramps. The diarrhea is often bloody. Symptoms usually last between five to 10 days.

Anyone experiencing symptoms compatible with E. coli infection should seek advice from their health-care provider and follow good hygiene practices to prevent further spread of this infection.