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Deadly E. coli outbreak claims first victims

The Local · 24 May 2011, 16:09

Published: 24 May 2011 12:19 GMT+02:00
Updated: 24 May 2011 16:09 GMT+02:00

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A 83-year-old woman from the Diepholz area in Lower Saxony who had been hospitalised with bloody diarrhoea since May 15 died last Saturday, the state Health Ministry confirmed on Tuesday.

A second woman older than 80 infected with the EHEC bacteria died on Sunday in the Schleswig Holstein area of Stormarn, but she was also being operated on for something else, local health authorities said.

And Bremen authorities confirmed that a 24-year-old woman died on Monday night after suffering typical EHEC symptoms. Laboratory work is currently being carried out to see what her infection actually was.

More than 350 cases or suspected cases have been registered, with several of those affected in critical condition. One patient is in a coma. EHEC can lead to kidney failure which can be fatal, as well as severe anaemia.

Two company canteens run by consultancy giant PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Frankfurt were closed on Friday after it was established that all 19 people infected with the EHEC bacteria had eaten there.

Oswalt Bellinger from the Frankfurt Health Authority said deliveries of food were being examined.

"We reckon that the source of infection is in north Germany," he said.

"And we still think that the transmission took place via raw foods." Results from laboratory tests were to be expected by the end of the week.

The EHEC bug occurs sporadically every year in Germany, but the current outbreak is unusual, according to public health body, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

The cases are occurring mostly in northern Germany but there are also preliminary notices of infection from southern and eastern Germany, it said.

Hotspots of infection include the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, where the number of suspected cases rose between Monday and Tuesday from 90 to 200, as well as Lower Saxony, Hamburg, Hesse and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

“The number of severe cases (more than 80 HUS cases) in a short time-frame is very unusual – and the age groups are atypical. Currently, adults, overwhelmingly women, are affected,” an RKI statement said.

It said that last year around 1,000 EHEC cases were reported in Germany, resulting in two deaths.

People can reduce their risk of infection by cooking their food thoroughly, as well as observing general food hygiene rules.

Story continues below…

Those with diarrhoea should be strict about washing their hands and avoiding contact with children and those with weakened immune systems. People with bloody diarrhoea should go to a doctor immediately.

The RKI has sent a team to Hamburg, where so far the most infections have been registered, to help the health authorities there in the hunt for a source of the infection.

DPA/DAPD/The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

13:15 May 24, 2011 by bartschaff
I'll never get the reason for this eternal advice, "go to a doctor immediately", since the doctor never does anything but telling you to rest and to compensate for the lost liquid and salts. Only after going through one week of diarrhea will you get proper medical attention...
14:18 May 24, 2011 by lordkorner
Change your Doctor.
14:21 May 24, 2011 by cklb
and get private health insurance. otherwise they'll let you wait until you are not a risk anymore :p
18:16 May 24, 2011 by Talonx
I'm with lordkorner. The thing I like most about German doctors/ nurses is that they actually do tests to determine the cause of sickness in borderline critical patients. Having dealt with the guesswork system in the U.S. for so long it is something that still sticks out as exceptional to me.

I would never recommend moving out of the social system, because private health insurance is a dive.

I'd recommend looking at some actual data on treatment and critical waiting times (i.e. when injury or life-threatening sickness is eminent) before changing from the more than sufficient social to private system.

The only thing extra you get from private insurers is a larger bill full of unecessary medical costs.
18:34 May 24, 2011 by karenandklaus
We're not surprised with these deaths. Coz we've witnessed so many people not washing their hands after using the toilet. E.coli is feaces-related.
19:18 May 24, 2011 by Frenemy
@karenandklaus: Usually yes. But a massive outbreak like this suggests primary source contamination. It most likely resulted from not properly washing store-bought vegetables like lettuce leaves that were cleaned with contaminated water prior to being sold at stores around the country (and the fact that women typically eat more salad than men would also explain the disproportionate female infection rate)....
23:40 May 24, 2011 by Landmine
diarrhoea is spelled diarrhea...
08:24 May 25, 2011 by Pille17
...not necessarily
12:45 May 25, 2011 by Tax Paying Slave
@ Landmine. Both spellings are correct.

The original way of spelling it was with the 'o' but the Americans bastardised the word - as they have done with so many others - and removed the 'o'

You, being American, spell it without the 'o' but people who speak correct English spell it with the 'o'.

Please check a dictionary before making further comments about spelling.
14:05 May 25, 2011 by XFYRCHIEF
@TPS - why do you say Americans "bastardized" so many words? What makes your idea of "...correct English..." so superior. And, by the way, you meant to say "proper English". Americans do speak English that is considered correct by American standards. And remember, English is a bastardized language to begin with and has its roots in German.
15:52 May 25, 2011 by SockRayBlue
Who keeps forgetting to wash their hands? Do these pesky foreigners that become maintenance workers actually clean those doorknobs? Who works in all those restaurants?
12:54 May 26, 2011 by ValP
Oh COME ON! Proper English????? Now whose English is more "proper" - spoken by, say, a construction worker from Newcastle or an Ivy League professor???? (just an example to make the message come across, so please don't start picking on me on any specifics.... ;-)))
16:14 May 26, 2011 by GolfAlphaYankee
Good to see the spelling Police at work....LoL. All the sudden I don´ t worry about the e-coli anymore!

thanks guys ! keep the good work ;-)))
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