Germany discovers first human transfer in E coli outbreak
Jun 17, 2011, 13:20 GMT
Wiesbaden, Germany - German scientists have discovered a second cause of the outbreak of E coli bacteria that has killed 39 people in recent weeks: a kitchen employee at a catering company was unwittingly spreading the germ on food.
The finding on Friday comes a week after statistical and laboratory proof that the disease was mainly spread by edible sprouts grown from lentils, radishes and beans at a market garden.
Hesse state consumer protection officials said that a woman who had caught Type O104:H4 enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) from the sprouts, but had not yet fallen ill, passed it to 20 other people via food she handled.
A spokesman, Harald Kehlborn, said investigators were checking the kitchen, but added that the infection would have been impossible if kitchen staff had properly washed their hands after using the toilet.
He said it might turn out the E coli had been spread via a kitchen utensil at the firm, which mainly supplied food for home parties.
The female worker later developed the most severe form of EHEC infection, haemolytic-uraemic syndrome, in which the kidneys and nervous system fail and patients often suffer epileptic fits.
The EHEC outbreak roiled European vegetable markets, with millions of people refusing to eat salad until the cause was found and several nations imposing import bans on vegetables. The outbreak is continuing, but the number of new cases declined this week.
All but one of the 39 deaths since mid-May have been in Germany. Type O104:H4 is a mutation of the common E coli found in most people's digestive tracts. Author: Jean-Baptiste Piggin, Isabell Scheuplein