Wednesday, June 8, 2011


The second-largest outbreak due to E.coli bacteria in the world is still ongoing. The number of victims now stands at about 2,400 confirmed illnesses in 14 countries, over 600 of worst cases hospitalized with life-threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and at least 24 deaths. Multiply the number of illnesses by about 10 and you'll probably be closer to the real numbers (not everyone will become ill enough to see a doctor). The culprit food (and we are still assuming it was food) has not yet been identified.

In Canada, only one case (in Ontario) is recorded at present. In the U.S., at least 4 cases are believed to be part of this outbreak. The CDC says the one in Massachusetts has been confirmed, and two suspected cases are in hospital with HUS in Wisconsin and Michigan one each). The fourth case is not as bad. All five people ill in North America had recently been in Hamburg, Germany - the center of the outbreak, and eaten there.

However, at the moment there is no cause for alarm. The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and health officials in all the states are taking special action to quickly catch any cases and to prevent spread to others. (This bacterium can spread person-to-person as well as animal-to-human and through contaminated food or water). Suspect foods imported from affected European countries is undergoing special testing. Canada is also taking extra precautions. That is about all that government can do at present.

However, realistically, there will probably be more cases. If you have travelled to Europe recently, watch out for symptoms of diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and sometimes, vomiting. But remember that many other bacteria, viruses and parasites can cause the same symptoms (not to mention irritable bowel and all those other things!). When you see your doctor, don't forget to mention your trip.

To your good health!

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