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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs