Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Finally, that awful E.coli -104:H4 outbreak in Europe is winding down. Reports of cases are still coming in, because of reporting delays, but there are apparently few new illnesses.

Here are the latest numbers according to the World Health Organization (WHO) for June 20, as reported June 21. The total of illness linked to this outbreak is 3697, with all but 5 victims either having lived in or travelled to Germany. Of these, 814 people have developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) - a high 22% rate. The most heavily affected have been adult women (I would assume this is because women eat more sprouts). Some 40 people have died. Most of the cases have been in Germany. Sweden and Denmark are next. WHO reports only 6 in UK and 5 in the U.S. If you want to check on your country or see the full breakdown, go to the WHO website (www.who.org) and click on the link to the European outbreak. It should be updated regularly.

The culprit food has now (after some false starts) been identified as bean sprouts (but the window seems to have been left open to include other sprouts as well). People throughout Germany have been warned by the Robert Koch Institute (which is in charge of this mess) not to eat sprouts of any origin. The rare and very deadly bacterium that caused all this misery (as well as political fallout and economic problems) - and this is really a mouthful - has been identified as: "enteroaggregative verocytotoxin-producing E. coli (EAggEC VTEC) O104:H4."

Let's hope this is really the end. But now the experts are talking about the outbreak as a warning of similar things to come. Maybe this bacterium, maybe another. And yes, as we have seen, food poisoning can be very widespread, and these days, global in its reach. If a food like sprouts is the vehicle - which only a small percentage of people eat at all - what if it the hazardous item is something like lettuce or tomatoes, which almost everyone eats, often in raw form?

Frankly, I am not going to lose sleep over it. But let's eat as safely as we can. And I do hope that if we have another outbreak like this, anywhere in the world, the investigators and researchers will do a better job.

To your good health,


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The point about the "authorities" doing a better job of managing the crisis is very valid. All the fingerpointing, blaming the the wrong causes and political infighting was an embarassment for an advanced country.