01:58am Thursday 19 October 2017

Patient in Norway with possible connection to EHEC outbreak in Germany

illustration photo The patient is a man in his forties who was admitted to Sørlandet Hospital in Kristiansand with bloody diarrhoea. It is not yet known if the bacterial strain is the same as that which is involved in the German outbreak.

Local health authorities and the Food Safety Authority are following up the case in co-operation with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and are working to identify the source of infection. The number of confirmed cases in Europe is increasing so it would be unsurprising if more cases arise in Norway.

EHEC infection

The time taken from infection with EHEC bacteria until the onset of diarrhoea is usually 3-4 days, but this may vary slightly (1-10 days). The disease usually begins with diarrhoea that may become bloody, usually lasting for 4-10 days. HUS is a serious complication that may arise, with kidney failure and blood changes. The most common cause of HUS is infection with a particular type of E. coli bacteria, called enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC).

E.coli bacteria

E. coli bacteria are normally found in large quantities in humans and animals. These intestinal bacteria are usually harmless, but some groups of them can cause severe illness. One of these groups is the EHEC bacterium. The bacterium usually comes from food or another source (water, contact with animals). Infection can also occur directly from person to person, or by direct contact with animals. The elderly and children can be severely affected.

General preventive measures 

  • cook all processed meat (including minced beef, hamburgers, meatballs, etc.) thoroughly 
  • other meat products should be well-cooked on the surface 
  • avoid unpasteurised milk/milk products 
  • rinse raw vegetables thoroughly before consumption 
  • store food at refrigerator temperature (+4 °C) – remember to use cooler boxes in the summer heat 
  • wash hands after using the toilet, after contact with animals and before cooking and eating 
  • wash knives, chopping boards and utensils that have used for raw food before re-using the equipment for other food.

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