According to the Robert Koch Institute, 1,064 cases of EHEC have been reported in Germany since the beginning of May. Cases of EHEC have been reported in nine European countries: Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K. Nearly all have been people who had spent time in Germany during the outbreak.
As of now, there have been no confirmed cases of E. coli in U.S. citizens, but there have been two cases of HUS in the United States reported in persons with recent travel to Hamburg, Germany.
Even though the source of the E. coli has not yet been identified, officials believe it may have been spread on agricultural products that were contaminated sometime during the transport from farm to grocery store.
This latest outbreak in Germany should be a warning sign to Americans. I want to use the story to remind everyone of the dangers of E. coli in food.
After all, ‘tis the season now in the summer where we tend to see more of these cases cropping up. Everyone needs to be alert – from consumers, to federal inspectors, to health officials.
At the consumer level, you have to be aware that contamination is a real possibility. You cannot just assume that your food is safe. It is important to wash all fruits and vegetables properly. Also, whenever you have a barbeque, cooking meat at the right temperatures is extremely important to avoid getting sick.
For federal inspectors, I urge you to continue to monitor farms and packing in order to minimize the possibility of contamination. We don’t want a repeat of last year, where we saw thousands of products recalled due to the threat of E. coli.
And to health care professionals, it is not only important to recognize the signs and symptoms of E. coli, which include non-lethal stomach ailments as well as kidney problems, strokes and comas, but also to be sure to report any cases of E. coli to government health authorities so they can implement proper tracking procedures.
As I like to say, globalization is a hell of a thing.