Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Health experts are keeping a close eye on E. coli outbreak in Europe

CDC officials said this deadly strain of E. coli spreading across Europe is very rare – and they are not aware of any cases of STEC O104:H4 infection ever being reported in the United States.

The exact source is still not known, but scientists said the suspicions about vegetables or salads being a possible source are well-founded since cattle manure used in fertilizer can harbor E. coli.
"E. coli can attach to the surface of many fresh produce, such as lettuce leaves, spinach leaves and cucumber. These type of E.coli survive harsher environmental conditions than...and produce some nasty toxins to humans," said Brendan Wren of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

The outbreak, which started in mid-May, has so far sickened more than 1,000 people in Germany as well as people from Spain, Sweden, Britain, Denmark, France and the Netherlands who had recently been in Germany.

It's "extraordinary" to see so many cases of the kidney complication from a foodborne illness, said Dr. Robert Tauxe, a foodborne disease expert at the CDC. "There has not been such an outbreak before that we know of in the history of public health."
He added there have been several high-profile foodborne outbreaks in recent years, but none with such a high death toll.