Germany 'really worried' by E. coli outbreak

May 25, 2011

Germany's consumer minister expressed deep concern Wednesday at an outbreak of poisoning by dangerous bacteria believed to have killed three women and left hundreds ill.

"This is really worrying," Ilse Aigner said on ARD public television. "We do not know what is the source (of the poisoning) and we cannot rule out there will be more cases."

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany's national disease agency, more than 80 people have become seriously ill in the past two weeks after ingesting enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC).

Across Germany, mostly in the north, there are hundreds of other suspected cases, including some 200 in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, 100 in Lower Saxony, and in Hamburg close to 50.

Three women, including two in their eighties, are believed to have died as a result over the past week, although tests have yet to confirm this.

RKI head Burger on Tuesday called the recent number of recorded cases "scarily high".

Normally in a year there are around 1,000 EHEC infections and some 60 cases of haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening disease caused by EHEC infection.

According to the , HUS is characterised by and blood problems, with a of between three and five percent. It can also cause seizures, strokes and coma.

E. coli is commonly found in the gut of humans and warm-blooded animals. Most strains of E. coli are harmless but some, like EHEC, can cause severe , resulting in several outbreaks in recent years.

It is transmitted to humans primarily through contaminated foods such as raw or undercooked meat and unpasteurised milk, as well as by animal faeces getting into water and food and by cross-contamination during food preparation.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Listeria infection causes early pregnancy loss in primates

February 21, 2017

Researchers in Wisconsin have discovered how Listeria monocytogenes, a common foodborne pathogen, travels through the mother's body to fatally attack the placenta and fetus during early pregnancy in a macaque monkey.

Listeria may be serious miscarriage threat early in pregnancy

February 21, 2017

Listeria, a common food-borne bacterium, may pose a greater risk of miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy than appreciated, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine ...

Ebola linked to habitat destruction

February 20, 2017

A Massey University veterinary scientist has co-authored research suggesting that Ebola virus emergence is linked to the clearing of animal habitat through deforestation in West and Central Africa.

New study determines how long Zika remains in body fluids

February 20, 2017

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine provides evidence that the Zika virus particles remain longer in blood than in urine and some other body fluids. This information suggests that blood serum may be the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.