Ten people in Germany die from E.coli

E.coli infected cucumbers kill ten people in Germany

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

cucumber_web According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control ten German citizens have been killed and hundreds taken ill after an outbreak of E.coli that was caught from a contaminated batch of imported cucumbers.

The virus is a rather complicated form of E.coli – called hemolytic-uremic syndrome – which can cause kidney failure and affect the central nervous system: adults, who are not normally seen as at the greatest risk, have accounted for 87% of reported cases.

Cases of the disease have been reported in Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK whilst the cucumbers, which were originally imported from Spain, had also been sent to Hungary, Austria and Luxembourg.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control published the [outbreak] event background and risk assessment on the 27th May:

Event background information

On 22 May 2011, Germany posted a EWRS1 message reporting a significant increase in the number of patients with HUS and bloody diarrhoea caused by STEC. An urgent inquiry was launched through the EPIS platform on 24 May.

The update provided by Germany on 27 May reports 276 cases of HUS since 25 April. While HUS cases are usually observed in children under 5 years of age, in this outbreak 87% are adults, with a clear predominance of women (68%). Cases in children of school age are also reported. Two people affected by HUS have died. The onset of disease relating to the latest reported case was 25 May. New cases are still being reported.

Laboratory results from samples taken from patients have identified STEC strain of serotype O104:H4 (Stx2-positive, eae-negative). A German study has shown that eae-negative STEC strains generally affect adults more than children. Two strains isolated from patients from Hesse and Bremerhaven were shown to be highly resistant against third-generation cephalosporins (ESBL) and resistant to trimethoprim/sulfonamid and tetracyclines.

Most cases are from, or have a history of travel to, northern Germany (mainly Hamburg, Northern Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein). Clusters of cases were reported from the State of Hessen and linked to a catering company that supplies cafeterias. These most likely constitute a satellite outbreak.

Once again I must raise the question as to how E.coli, a virus that is found in the excrement of humans and animals, has gotten onto vegetables, in this case not leafy ones, as has been the case in the USA of late, but cucumbers, the fruit of a a vine.

The only possibility, really, is that we have contamination at the farm in that irrigation or fertilization is the carrier, or at the packing houses, when it is then the handlers whose hands were not clean.

Simple hygiene measures can prevent such outbreaks, of which we seem to be seeing more and more, and washing of hands is one of them when it comes to pickers and packers. When it comes to the farms there it is simply a case of not applying any slurry or farmyard manure to plants. It is not rocket science and it would seems that the farmers of old were more careful.

© 2011

1The Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) for communicable diseases in the European Union was created by the European Commission to "ensure a rapid and effective response by the EU to events (including emergencies) related to communicable diseases".

EWRS is a web-based system linking the Commission, the public health authorities in Member States responsible for measures to control communicable diseases and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). EEA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) are also linked to the system.