Officials from the CDC and the FDA emphasized that nearly all these illnesses were contracted during the window when the lettuce was still for sale. "So any immediate risk is gone", FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb and Dr. Stephen Ostroff, FDA's Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, said in a joint blog post.
"This is a higher hospitalization rate than usual for E. coli O157:H7 infections, which is usually around 30 percent", the agency noted.
Four more deaths have been linked to the national food poisoning outbreak blamed on tainted lettuce, bringing the total to five.
The disease appears to have been spread from romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma region of Arizona.
However, the lettuce from that region is past its shelf life and is likely no longer being sold in stores or served in restaurants, the FDA said.
In the past two weeks an additional 25 people have also become ill from eating the contaminated lettuce, the CDC announced.
Five people have now died in a major E. coli outbreak in the U.S. involving romaine lettuce, with 197 cases reported across 35 states. A total of 26 people have developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.
Officials said that first illness began sometime between March 13 and May 12.
In addition, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated the case count: 197 people from 35 states were sickened. And there has been person-to-person transmission in this outbreak; some people who got sick didn't eat romaine, but had close contact with someone who did get sick from romaine lettuce.
The specific type of E. coli linked to this outbreak makes 265,000 people in the USA sick, sends 3,600 to the hospital and kills about 30 each year, the CDC reported. Symptoms can include bloody diarrhea, vomiting and severe stomach cramps. Most people recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die. The AP is exclusively responsible for all content.