E. coli Outbreak in Europe

by Wayne Ghesquiere on June 3, 2011

There is currently a large E. coli outbreak in Europe, which has resulted in a number of deaths. Most cases are confined to northern Germany, and several cases have been reported from other countries within Europe, most of whom reported travel to Germany. The majority of cases have been among adults and mainly among females. E. coli infection can cause Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), which is a severe and sometimes fatal complication; HUS is characterised by acute kidney failure and anaemia. Symptoms of E. coli infection may include abdominal cramps and diarrhea, which may lead to bloody diarrhea and HUS. E. coli infection is transmitted from person to person via the fecal-oral route. Symptoms usually develop within two to 10 days following exposure. There is no vaccine available for travellers to prevent E. coli infection. Early information suggests that the current outbreak might be associated with contaminated produce (cucumbers, tomatoes or lettuce). At this time there is not a definitive food source identified as the cause of this outbreak, and further investigations are ongoing. The Public Health Agency of Canada advises travellers to Europe to practise safe food and water precautions and to follow the advice of German authorities (see below).
Recommendations
Consult a doctor, nurse or health care provider, or visit a travel health clinic at least six weeks before you travel.
  1. Practise safe food and water precautions
  2. Follow the advice of the German authorities
    1. The Robert Koch institute, the federal institution responsible for disease control and prevention, are advising people in Germany to avoid eating raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce especially in the north of the country.
  3. If you develop severe diarrhea when you are travelling or when you return to Canada
    1. Seek immediate medical care. 
    2. Drink fluids and use oral rehydration salts to prevent dehydration.

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