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A total of five people have died and 197 have been stricken with illness following a deadly E coli outbreak that has reached 35 states in the US, health officials have reported.

The nation’s largest multi-state E coli outbreak in more than a decade has been blamed upon contaminated Romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region of Arizona. The harvesting season for the lettuce ended in April so it’s unlikely that the tainted product is still being used in homes and restaurants.

Of the people who have fallen ill, 89 required hospitalization, according to a Center for Disease Control (CDC) report. The first E coli-related death, reported in early May in California, has now been followed by four more confirmed deaths across Arkansas, Minnesota and New York, the CDC said. Officials in Canada have also reported the presence of the same strain of E Coli in the country.

“Some people who became sick did not report eating romaine lettuce, but had close contact with someone else who got sick from eating romaine lettuce,” the CDC stated, adding that some illnesses may not be apparent due to the typical two to three week lag between the onset of sickness and reporting to authorities.

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People are marching in the streets demanding better care for older Australians in aged care homes after increasing media reports of neglect, abuse and negligence.

If we want to improve the situation for residents, we need more registered nurses in aged care homes. When registered nurses are on duty, residents have better health outcomes, a higher quality of life and fewer hospital admissions.

When I worked as a critical care nurse in hospitals, there was a one-to-one ratio of registered nurses to patients. Some days were busy, others were not. However, because society values "saving lives", legislation ensures every intensive care unit is well staffed.

There are also mandated ratios in childcare centres because society values the safety and welfare of children. Yet we don't take the same approach when it comes to aged care homes.

Is this because we don't value older people?

'Flexibility' not the answer

The 2011 Productivity Commission Report Caring for Older Australians described staffing ratios as "a fairly blunt instrument for ensuring quality care because of the heterogeneous and ever-changing care needs of aged care recipients."

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