E coli Outbreak in Europe Affects US
There are news reports that a virulent strain of E coli first identified in Europe has affected at least four Americans. The strain has killed 18 people and sickened approximately 1700 in Germany, Britain, Spain, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. The Americans one thing in common-they all traveled to Germany.
The CDC has issued an outbreak notice and has identified the culprit as Shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC O104:H4). Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, dehydration, and fever; and in isolated cases it has caused severe anemia and a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
CDC epidemiologists are not sure of an animal source (such as cow manure) but have recommended consumers at risk avoid eating raw vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce.
While there is no need to panic at this point, the quick spread of this outbreak reminds us of our ever shrinking world and one in which microbes do not need a passport to travel internationally. It also reminds us to take common-sense precautions like rigorous handwashing, eating only well-washed or thoroughly cooked vegetables, adequate hydration and seeking medical attention for protracted or unusually severe GI symptoms.
While the epidemiologists will trace the origin and trend lines, it is dedicated laboratorians who will culture specimens, identify organisms and come up with sensitivity patterns to help to stop this bug in its tracks.