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Saturday 23 September 2023 Dublin: 15°C
# E-coli
Eight things you need to know about the new, deadly E.coli outbreak
Why is this strain more deadly than any we’ve seen before? And what can you do to make sure you don’t get it?

Eight things you really need to know about the latest E.coli outbreak.

  1. 18 people have now died from the illness, and between 1,600 and 2,000 are sick.
  2. The infection has spread to 12 countries, including Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA. To date, no confirmed cases have been reported in Ireland.
  3. In every case except two, the infected person had recently visited Germany, or had contact with a visitor from Germany.
  4. The WHO yesterday identified it as a “completely new” mutant strain, which is both more toxic and more infectious than the usual strain.  Most Escherichia coli, or E. coli, bacteria are harmless. But the strain implicated in this outbreak is known as 0104:H4. The bacteria combines with a rarely seen “glue” that helps it to stick to the patient’s intestines.
  5. The outbreak is unusual in a number of ways: it has developed very rapidly, and is affecting women more than men, and adults more than children. But that may just be due to the kind of food implicated – children tend not to be the world’s most enthusiastic salad eaters.
  6. This strain is causing a high number of cases of the deadly haemolytic-uraemic syndrome (HUS), affecting both the blood and the kidneys. Four hundred and seventy cases of HUS have been reported in Germany – an “extraordinarily high number”, according to a foodborne diseases expert at the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention. A genetic analysis reveals that the bacteria are 93 per cent similar to a bug that caused illness in Africa in 2002, and proved resistant to 14 different kinds of antibiotics.
  7. The infection starts in animal faeces, and spreads to food through the use of manure as a fertiliser. It can then spread from person to person. People travelling to Germany are being advised to avoid raw cucumber, lettuce and tomato – but it’s probably a good idea to wash your salad vegetables wherever you live, and practice good hygiene.
  8. The symptoms include bloody diarrhea and vomiting. In severe cases it causes kidney failure, seizure, stroke, coma and death.