Since the outbreak began four weeks ago in Germany, 10 countries have reported cases, including France, Sweden, Denmark, and the United States. Worldwide, 2,153 people have been infected, including four cases in the U.S., and 22 deaths.
Researchers believe that the source of contamination is vegetables, not beef. The bacteria appear to have entered the food chain after the produce left farms in Germany.
The four people infected in the Unites States are believed to have contracted the bacteria from consuming contaminated food while in Germany. However, a person also can contract this organism by merely coming in contact with an infected individual’s diarrhea.
This particular strain of E. Coli is rare. It is unusual in that its incubation period is 12 days, not the typical three days. Once ingested, it eventually attacks a person’s intestine, causing nausea and vomiting, fever and painful, bloody diarrhea. This bacteria produces a toxin that is absorbed into the blood stream, where it can cause damage to vessels, form clots and eventually damage the kidneys. As a result, an individual can develop acute kidney failure, requiring dialysis; many will recover, but others will unfortunately die.
The United States is taking more measures to protect our food supply. Congress passed a new food and safety law last year. As a result, the Food & Drug Administration, which regulates most vegetables, now has more power and authority to increase inspection of food, more funds to hire more food inspectors, and mandate companies to follow preventative rules to help decrease the possibility of a serious outbreaks in the United States.
Dr. Linda Petter is a weekly feature on KOMO TV/News Radio (1000 AM & 97.7 FM) every Sunday live 7:45 am, and a columnist for the Auburn Reporter. She trained at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Illinois, Carle Hospital. Dr. Petter is chief of the Department of Family Practice at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way. She is a consumer healthcare advocate, and her books, “Healthcare On a Budget”, and “Common Medical Sense” are available on Amazon.com. Please visit her website, www.DocForAll.com, or call her office at 253-568-0841.