Thursday, June 2, 2011


The E.coli outbreak that originated in Germany, and is spreading across Europe and beyond, is much worse than anyone initially expected. In fact, it is worse than any recent outbreak of food borne illness anywhere in the world. I am calling it "food borne" because that is how it has been classified from the beginning. But I am still keeping an open mind until there is conclusive proof. And there isn't yet.

True, food is indeed the source of illness from enterohemorrhagic E.coli like this one. But it is not the only possibility. You can also get it from contact with sick people, from animals (who may carry disease-causing bacteria but not show any symptoms), from a swimming pool, from oral contact with a contaminated spoon or fork (or, anything else), or from drinking water.

Even if it is food - and, it probably is, given the large number of people becoming ill, we may never find out which food item is involved. It wouldn't be the first time that an investigation of food borne illness came up blank. Not all crimes are solved either. And, as in the case of this outbreak, under pressure to come up with a solution, the wrong culprit is sometimes initially identified. Even if traceback efforts and laboratory testing never find the source, the outbreak usually just fizzles out. But, of course, it would end faster if we knew where it started.

Research institutes all over the world are becoming involved in trying to solve the mystery. Let's hope they succeed before it spreads any further.

To your good health!


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