The same strain of E. coli bacteria that caused the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a nationwide food safety alert just before Thanksgiving, warning people not to eat romaine lettuce, likely caused the illness that threatened the life of a 7-year-old Pahsimeroi Valley girl last month.
Quincy Smith is feeling better now, her blood pressure has dropped enough to take her off some medication, she’s resumed home school classes and she had a good appetite at Thanksgiving dinner, her mother, Dede O’Neal Smith said last week. Quincy preferred to eat brisket of O’Neal ranch-raised beef on turkey day and that’s good because beef has more iron than turkey and she needs to increase the iron in her blood, Smith said.
The CDC has reported 32 people in 11 states became sick from eating contaminated romaine lettuce in October. Thirteen people were hospitalized and one patient suffered hemolytic uremic syndrome as Quincy did. The Public Health Agency of Canada identified 18 people infected by E. coli with the same DNA fingerprint in Ontario and Quebec.
Idaho Health Department representatives contacted Dede Smith and her husband, Brad Smith, after Quincy got sick in October, asking what Quincy had eaten for five days before getting sick. Quincy’s nasty strain of E. coli bacteria was identical to that found in the romaine lettuce outbreak, Dede Smith said. CDC has reported no cases of E. coli outbreak in Idaho, and Dede Smith is not sure why, since it’s very likely the source of Quincy’s illness was E. coli-contaminated romaine lettuce.
“I can honestly say I was taking life for granted as she has never been sick other than a small cold for a day or two,” Smith said in a Nov. 24 Facebook posting to friends. “Seven years of having an amazingly healthy girl made me stop in my tracks watching her fight for life. I will cherish every minute I have with her even more.”
Smith earlier posted information about the CDC alert, saying, “E. coli 0157 is definitely nothing to mess with as it’s what we have been dealing with that turned into (Quincy’s) HUS, caused from the Shiga toxin! So, I’m sharing this as it really is a serious deal, so don’t just blow it off if you have lettuce in your fridge.”
Romaine lettuce in any form is unsafe to eat now, according to the CDC. Both Village Square and Lambs Market in Challis have thrown out all romaine lettuce products from their shelves. The grocery stores in Challis, Mackay, Salmon and Arco are all members of Associated Grocers and get their produce from the same source, said Tonya Clifford, owner of Village Square.
“Just to be on the safe side, we’re not going to order it,” Clifford said, at least until after CDC pinpoints the source and another safe supply is found.