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

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid