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E. Coli outbreak prompts public health reforms

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E. Coli outbreak prompts public health reforms
Photo: DPA
08:29 CEST+02:00
As Germany's deadly E. coli outbreak slowly peters out, Health Minister Daniel Bahr says he's concentrating on streamlining how healthcare providers report and track diseases to be better prepared for the future.

“We need to change the reporting procedures to modern communication standards, so that information on the developing number of patients is more readily available,” he told the Rheinische Post newspaper on Friday, suggesting a more streamlined system of communication in the future.

He spoke as the government tries to learn from criticism of how it handled the major outbreak of E. coli bacteria that killed 39 people – all of them in Germany except one woman who died in Sweden after visiting Germany – and infected more than 3,300 people in 16 countries.

German health bodies came under criticism from compatriots as well as European Union officials during the peak of the health crisis for trying to track the source of the deadly bacteria in what was described as a very disorganised manner, with some records being held on paper rather than the system being completely computerized.

A swathe of ministries and government agencies were involved in fighting and tracking the outbreak. It also emerged that health authorities were sometimes communicating with hospitals and each other via letters in the post rather than electronically and were having trouble tracking who had become ill.

Bahr said he wasn't sure why important messages were sent through the post but pledged to improve things.

He acknowledged that there was something to learn from the government's response, but rejected some of the strongest criticism about the crisis management efforts.

“The people rightly criticize the cacophony of speculation that came up from various sides of the world,” he said. “On the other hand there was factually substantiated information from the ministries and technical institutes. The latter is what people expect in order to protect them. Here, a good job was done.”

Bahr will be discussing his ideas to better track future outbreaks at a conference of German federal and state health authorities at the end of the month.

AFP/DAPD/The Local/mdm

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