Monday, May 30, 2011


A couple of weeks ago, vacationing or business travel in Germany would have been considered very safe. Not any more. Particularly around Hamburg. This is the center of the "cucumber crisis." Most of the over-thousand hermorragic E.coli-related illnesses have been linked to eating food here. A considerable number have occurred among people from other countries such as Sweden, Denmark, France, visiting this area, or, residents of Germany who ingested the cucumbers and at home and then went abroad and became ill.

Britain is the latest country to be hit by cucumber fears. At least three cases among visiting Germans are suspected to be part of this outbreak, one of them confirmed. In fact, the advice to Britons now is not to eat raw cucumbers - or, raw lettuce or tomatoes (see earlier post) - when visiting Germany. And remember, washing or peeling is not guaranteed to solve the problem. If the cucumber has been sliced up or otherwise prepared in a restaurant or hotel, the risk could be even greater, as it could also be contaminated by a food worker who is a carrier of the bacteria (or others).

The "incubation" period for pathogenic E.coli (the time between ingesting it and developing symptoms of illness) can be as little as one day or a week or even longer. That means that you can feel perfectly well for a while after eating that deadly cucumber, keep working or vacationing and get on that plane and then become ill.

And yes, the bacteria are contagious. That is, they can be passed along not only in food or water, but also from person to person and even from the water in a swimming pool where it can survive for weeks, particularly if not well chlorinated. So I will add a bit more advice to travelers: don't let the water from a public swimming pool enter your mouth - not even a few drops. Don't dive in, don't dive under, and in fact, you may want to think twice about using the pool at all.

To your good health!


Anonymous said...

Interesting advice about swimming pools. My father was an ear, nose and throat specialist and during summer his patient load would double. Something he put down to infections from swimming pools.

Anonymous said...

No cucumbers in England during summer? There goes their wonderful cucumber sandwiches, particularly during an English cricket match. a pity since their national cricket team is doing so well.