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

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.