News / Health

Source of Deadly E. Coli Strain Remains Unknown

A patient, infected with EHEC, lies in his bed in an isolation area of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf - UKE in the northern German town of Hamburg, June 2, 2011
A patient, infected with EHEC, lies in his bed in an isolation area of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf - UKE in the northern German town of Hamburg, June 2, 2011

The World Health Organization reports no progress has been made in identifying the mysterious, lethal strain of E. coli that has infected and killed an unusually large number of people in northern Germany.  Latest WHO figures put the number of global cases at more than 1,800, including 18 deaths.  Of these, more than 1,700 cases and 17 deaths are in Germany.

The World Health Organization reports this deadly new strain of E. coli has spread to 12 countries, since the first infections were reported in northern Germany in mid-May.  

Scientists at laboratories around the world are working to gather information about this rare strain of E. coli, which can cause severe renal failure.  But the source of the massive outbreak remains unknown.

E. Coli Map

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.

One case of person-to-person contact has been identified.  WHO epidemiologist Andrea Ellis says the bacteria is spread from human to human usually from the feces of an animal that is actually consumed by people.

"So, you can imagine that person-to-person transmission can occurr if there is inadequate hygiene," said Ellis. "So, for example, if somebody has diarrhea and uses the washroom, but fails to wash their hands, then that can then transfer bacteria onto surfaces, or even shaking hands and other personal contact that could, in fact, allow person-to-person transmission." 

"So, it is nothing that would be unique to this situation.  It really is more something that we are always concerned about.  And, that is why the messages of washing your hands, paying vigilant attention to proper personal hygiene are always something we want to reinforce in these circumstances," she added.

Dr. Ellis notes until now, all identified cases are linked to northern Germany.  People who got sick and died either have been residents of or travelers to this region.  

"That has been a very unique feature because we were concerned that, of course, with any food-borne outbreak, we are always worried about where else has the food been sold," she said. "And, so, what it seems to be evident up to this moment in time is that, it seems that the exposure that is occurring that is responsible for this seems to be limited to that area.  So, there certainly are no…recommendations from WHO in terms of travel or trade restrictions at this time.  Those would not be warranted."

The outbreak of this fatal illness has triggered panic in Europe.  Consumers stopped buying Spanish cucumbers when German authorities wrongly identified them as the source of the bacteria.  

Russia says it is banning fresh vegetable imports from the European Union - a move that could bankrupt many farmers.

E. coli attacks the kidneys and can cause seizures, strokes and comas.  Dr. Ellis says only about 10 percent of those who get infected from an outbreak of food poisoning suffer severe complications, and most recover.  

In the case of this new strain, she says an unusually high number of victims are affected, and that is very worrying.

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' 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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid