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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Salad of Broccoli? no ! it has E coli

     The outbreak of the HUS syndrome in Germany has been the concern of many.  Let me also become social conscious. I felt that some information on the e coli infection and the precautions to be taken will be helpful to the readers of my blog.  Thanks to all who have given ample information on the net which has helped me to assimilate and share it on my blog

What is E coli 0104? 
E.coli is a bacteria which lives in the intestine and helps in digestion process.  It is safe as long as it is in the intestine.  It becomes dangerous once it leaves the intestine and spreads through fecal matter or unwashed or uncleaned hands.  The latest addition to this is ecoli 0104.
German health authorities have reported an outbreak of a severe illness called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in Germany since May 2, 2011. In this outbreak, HUS is being caused by an infection with Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) bacteria. Many people have been hospitalized, several requiring intensive care, and some people have died. New cases are still being reported.. The organism causing the outbreak has been identified as E. coli O104:H4, producing Shiga toxin. This strain of E. coli causes an illness similar to infection with E. coli O157:H7.

     STEC infections can cause different gastrointestinal symptoms, which often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. If there is fever, it is generally not very high (less than 101°F [38.3°C]). HUS is a disorder that usually occurs when an infection in the digestive system (such as STEC) produces toxic substances that destroy red blood cells and cause kidney injury. Early symptoms of HUS include decreased frequency or volume of urination, feeling very tired, and losing pink color in the cheeks and inside the lower eyelids. Signs of HUS typically start 5–7 days after the start of diarrhea, and diarrhea or bloody stools may no longer be present when HUS develops.

   Most infections have been reported in people in northern Germany (mainly Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein) or in people who have recently traveled to these areas. Cases in travelers to northern Germany have been reported in Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
     German health authorities are investigating the outbreak but have not confirmed a source. They suspect that the source is contaminated food, possibly raw vegetables.
Guide to travellers:
German health authorities recommend that people in Germany, especially in the northern part of the country, avoid eating raw tomatoes, fresh cucumbers, and leafy salads, until further notice. Travelers should also follow regular food safety measures when handling fruit and vegetables.
If you have traveled to Germany and have bloody diarrhea and stomach cramps or symptoms of
HUS, go to a doctor right away and tell him or her about your recent travel.

Please do not panic.  Some precautions to avoid an infection
A few simple precautions can reduce the risk of foodborne diseases:
·         Wash : Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables in running tap water to remove visible dirt and grime. Remove and discard the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage. Because bacteria can grow well on the cut surface of fruit or vegetable, be careful not to contaminate these foods while slicing them up on the cutting board, and avoid leaving cut parts at room temperature for many hours. Don't be a source of foodborne illness yourself. Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food. Avoid preparing food for others if you yourself have a diarrheal illness. Changing a baby's diaper while preparing food is a bad idea that can easily spread illness
·         Don't cross-contaminate one food with another. Avoid cross-contaminating foods by washing hands, utensils, and cutting boards after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry and before they touch another food. Put cooked meat on a clean platter, and not back on one that held the raw meat.
Cook meat, poultry, and eggs thoroughly. Using a thermometer to measure the internal temperature of meat is a good way to be sure that it is cooked sufficiently to kill bacteria: 145°F for whole meats (allowing the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or consuming), 160°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry. Eggs should be cooked until the yolk is firm.
·         Refrigerate leftovers promptly. Bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature, so refrigerate leftover foods if they are not going to be eaten within 4 hours. Large volumes of food will cool more quickly if they are divided into several shallow containers for refrigeration.
Report suspected foodborne illnesses to your local health department. The local public health department is an important part of the food safety system. Often calls from concerned citizens are how outbreaks are first detected. If a public health official contacts you to find out more about an illness you had, your cooperation is important. In public health investigations, it can be as important to talk to healthy people as to ill people. Your cooperation may be needed even if you are not ill.

The World Health Organization cautioned people against taking antibiotics if they fall ill from the E. coli outbreak, which began in Germany last month.

The UN health agency said it supports existing recommendations to avoid antibiotics because they could make the condition worse.
Anti-diarrhea medication also should be avoided because it stops the bacteria from quickly leaving the body,
Studies testing the effectiveness of antibiotics for E. coli suggest at best the medication has no effect and at worst the drugs may worsen the illness. By killing bacteria, antibiotics cause the microbes to release more toxins that cause illness.
The New York Time’s Gardiner Harris goes into greater detail:
Instead of antibiotics, the best treatment is intravenous fluids, which help to keep the kidneys functioning.

Wish you a E coli infection free life.


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