Saturday, June 4, 2011


Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, has said that the actual number of infections resulting from the very toxic E.coli outbreak centered in Germany, could be 10 or more times higher than those officially announced.

So let's say the official numbers are 2,000 illnesses from this very unusual bacteria (that's probably close to what they will be tomorrow). That would mean that it's really closer to 20,000. Is this possible?

Yes, not only possible, but probable. That is what I have been suggesting in previous posts, so I am glad someone agrees. In all outbreaks there are large numbers of affected people who are not included in the reporting system: because they don't go to the doctor, because laboratory tests are not performed, because the tests don't turn up the bacteria (numbers present in the stool will decrease after the first few days), because the cause is not correctly identified, because the doctor or hospital doesn't have time to send in a report.

In addition, there are reporting delays: not just a few days, but sometimes weeks, while the information works its way through the system. This means that the reported statistics are always behind the real ones. And, much lower than the real ones.

Based on a review of the U.S. experience, The Safe Food Handbook suggests that probably as few as 3% of actual cases of food borne illness actually enter the official reporting system. I would guess that it is better in Europe, where the regulatory agencies are not as underfinanced and overworked as they are here. But it is still only a fraction.

To your good health!


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