News / Health

E. Coli Outbreak in Europe Causes Concern in US

An employee holds petri dishes with bacterial strains of EHEC bacteria (bacterium Escherichia coli.) in the microbiological laboratory of the University Clinic Eppendorf- UKE in the northern German town of Hamburg, June 2, 2011
An employee holds petri dishes with bacterial strains of EHEC bacteria (bacterium Escherichia coli.) in the microbiological laboratory of the University Clinic Eppendorf- UKE in the northern German town of Hamburg, June 2, 2011

Multimedia

Chris Simkins

The cause of the E. coli outbreak in Germany remains a mystery.  The outbreak is the deadliest in modern history with at least two-dozens deaths and more than 2,400 people sickened.  Eleven other European nations and the United States also report E. coli cases and say most of the victims had visited Germany.

But some health officials in the United States say it may be just a matter of time before a similar E.coli outbreak happens in the United States. 

International medical researchers are racing to find a cause of the world's deadliest E. coli outbreak that began in Germany May 2.  Experts have been unable to pinpoint the source of a rare super toxic strain of E. coli bacteria that has killed dozens and sickened thousands.  At least four people in America who visited Germany became sick.

Dr. Robynne Chutkan, a Gastroenterologist at Georgetown Hospital in Washington expects more cases in the U.S. soon.

"There is so much international travel between the U.S. and Europe I think it is completely conceivable that in the next few weeks we could be seeing some outbreaks of this potentially new and more virulent strain of E. Coli here in the United States," she said.

E. coli and how it is transmitted

E. coli is an abbreviation for Escherichia, which is a large and diverse group of bacteria. Most strains are harmless, others can cause illness. Symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. The major source is cattle, but other animals, foods and liquids may spread contamination to people.

  • Shiga toxin-producing E. coli

    This is a dangerous form of E. coli known by the acronym STEC. The best known strain of this STEC (also called 0157) was identified in 1982. Transmission and symptoms are similar to the most common form of E. coli.

  • EHEC

    A very serious infection is enterohaemorrhagic E. coli known by the acronym EHEC. It produces toxins, known as verotoxins or Shiga-like toxins. It may lead to life threatening diseases such as hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS.

  • HUS

    Scientists believe this is responsible for the European outbreak, originating from a potentially life threatening strain of STEC (0104). HUS afflicts the kidneys, blood and central nervous system.

The E. coli outbreak in Germany has left hundreds of people hospitalized with life threatening kidney complications.  It comes as U.S. health officials released data showing an increasing number of people were sickened by rare forms of E. coli bacteria in America last year.

Pat Buck is executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention.  She founded the organization in 2006 after her grandson Kevin died from eating food tainted with E-coli bacteria.  Buck says more can be done to improve U.S. food safety standards.

"Look at the connections between humans and animals and environments and see where these things connect because it is through the zoonotic diseases importantly that we end up with foodborne illness," she said.

Dr. Chutkan says the nasty form of E. coli hitting Europe illustrates the need for testing more foods in the United States for rare strains of the bacteria.

"One of the frightening and rather challenging aspects that this outbreak has illustrated is that foodborne illness can affect many different types of food and we thought of E. coli in the past as something that has been more strongly associated with meat but now we are seeing it in produce:  tomatoes, cucumbers, potentially sprouts and maybe lettuce," she said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has alerted state health departments to the ongoing outbreak and requested information about any people who test positive for the E.coli strain.  The Food and Drug Administration has also stepped up testing of foods imported from affected countries.  There are also new laws in place requiring the FDA to set standards to guard against all kinds of contamination in fresh produce.

Dr. Thomas Tallman, with the Cleveland Clinic Event Medicine, says the E. coli outbreak in Europe should be a wake-up call for people to take extra steps to properly clean fresh vegetables and fruits.

"I buy one of those sprays you can get at the supermarket that you can spray on them and rinse it off right away.  It is not really even a detergent or anything caustic.  But it helps just rinsing them, even just rinsing them with water so you have taken off anything that could be on the fruits and vegetables," he said.

The E.coli outbreak in Europe has led to more pressure from consumer groups for U.S. officials to do more testing for other E. colis in beef.  They also want more stringent regulation over companies that process beef to prevent E. coli contamination at slaughterhouses.

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More