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This post was edited by SMITHI at 2012-4-22 11:41|
A novel strain of Escherichia coli O104:H4 bacteria caused a serious outbreak of foodborne illness focused in northern Germany in May through June 2011. The illness was characterized by bloody diarrhea, with a high frequency of serious complications, including hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), a condition that requires urgent treatment. The outbreak was originally thought to have been caused by an enterohemorrhagic (EHEC) strain of E. coli, but it was later shown to have been caused by an enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC) strain that had acquired the genes to produce Shiga toxins.
Epidemiological fieldwork suggested fresh vegetables were the source of infection. The agriculture minister of Lower Saxony identified an organic farm in Bienenbüttel, Lower Saxony, Germany, which produces a variety of sprouted foods, as the likely source of the E. coli outbreak. The farm has since been shut down. Although laboratories in Lower Saxony did not detect the bacterium in produce, a laboratory in North Rhine-Westphalia later found the outbreak strain in a discarded package of sprouts from the suspect farm. A control investigation confirmed the farm as the source of the outbreak. On 30 June 2011 the German Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR) (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment), an institute of the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection), announced that seeds of fenugreek imported from Egypt were likely the source of the outbreak.
In addition to Germany, where 3,785 cases and 45 deaths had been reported as of 27 July, a handful of cases were reported in several countries including Switzerland, Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Canada and the USA. Essentially all affected people had been in Germany or France shortly before becoming ill.
Initially German officials made incorrect statements on the likely origin and strain of Escherichia coli. The German health authorities, without results of ongoing tests, incorrectly linked the O104 serotype to cucumbers imported from Spain. Later, they recognised that Spanish greenhouses were not the source of the E. coli and cucumber samples did not contain the specific E. coli variant causing the outbreak. Spain consequently expressed anger about having its produce linked with the deadly E. coli outbreak, which cost Spanish exporters 200M US$ per week. Russia banned the import of all fresh vegetables from the European Union until 22 June.