Federal health officials say six Canadians have been stricken by a strain of E. coli that has a similar genetic fingerprint to romaine lettuce from the U.S. southwest that has already sickened 149 people in 29 states.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says two of the six Canadians reported travelling to the U.S. before falling ill due to E. coli O157, three became infected in Canada and the remaining case is under investigation.
The six Canadian illnesses were reported between late March and mid-April in four provinces — one each in British Columbia and Alberta and two each in Saskatchewan and Ontario.
One Canadian was hospitalized and no deaths have been reported in Canada.
Two Canadians reported travelling to the U.S. before getting sick and eating romaine lettuce while they were there. The others ate romaine lettuce at home, or in prepared salads purchased at grocery stores, restaurants and fast food chains, before their illnesses occurred.
The agency says if it is determined that contaminated romaine lettuce is in the Canadian market, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will recall the product as required.
"Canadians who are travelling to the U.S., or who shop for groceries across the border and purchase romaine lettuce in the U.S. are advised to follow the U.S. CDC's advice for U.S. consumers found on their website," the Public Health Agency of Canada said.
The website advises avoiding romaine from the Yuma region and reporting any symptoms of E. coli to a health professional.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region in Arizona and California is no longer being produced and distributed, so the potential for exposure to contaminated lettuce is reduced.
At least 64 people have been hospitalized in the United States, including 17 with kidney failure. One death, previously reported, occurred in California.