A “stunningly high” number of people are suffering from infection by a particularly unpleasant strain of E. coli bacteria, The Associated Press reported.
Officials in Germany are warning citizens to avoid consuming raw cucumbers, tomatoes or lettuce as the death toll rises in an outbreak of foodborne bacterial infections that has hit at least nine European countries.
“Medical authorities appeared no closer to discovering either the source of the infection or the mystery at the heart of the outbreak: why the unusual strain of the E. coli bacteria appears to be causing so many cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, which attacks the kidneys and can cause seizures, strokes and comas,” the article read. “Germany’s national health agency said 1,534 people in the country had been infected by enterohaemorrhagic E.coli, or EHEC, a particularly deadly strain of the common bacteria found in the digestive systems of cows, humans and other mammals.”
“The World Health Organization said cases of EHEC have been reported in nine European countries: Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K.” the article read. “All but two cases are either people in Germany, or people who had recently traveled to northern Germany.”
“There may well be a great number of asymptomatic cases out there that we’re missing. This could be a much bigger outbreak than we realize right now,” Paul Hunter, a professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia in England, told The AP. “There might also be something genetically different about this particular strain of E. coli that makes it more virulent.”
Dr. Robert Tauxe, a foodborne disease expert at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The AP it is “extraordinary” to see so many cases of the kidney complication from a foodborne illness. “There has not been such an outbreak before that we know of in the history of public health.”