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European E. coli outbreak soars; mystery deepens
Question of the Day
U.S. health officials say two people who recently had traveled to Hamburg, Germany, and are now back in the United States have the bug. The agency did not say where in the United States the two travelers are, but it said it is working with state health departments to learn more about the cases and identify others.
An American tourist who traveled to the Czech Republic from Germany was hospitalized in Prague, officials said.
In addition, Sweden has reported 15 cases of HUS, followed by Denmark with seven, the Netherlands with three, the U.K. with two and Spain with one, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
It’s “extraordinary” to see so many cases of the kidney complication from a food-borne illness, said Dr. Robert Tauxe, a food-borne disease expert at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “There has not been such an outbreak before that we know of in the history of public health.”
He added that the strain of E. coli in the European outbreak has not been seen in the United States, where there have been several high-profile food-borne outbreaks in recent years, but none with such a high death toll.
There’s little precedent in Europe, either. In 1996, an E. coli outbreak in the United Kingdom caused 216 cases and 11 deaths.
The World Health Organization said 86 percent of those sickened in the current outbreak were adults and two-thirds were women. It said it was unusual that more children weren’t affected.
Kirsten Grieshaber and Juergen Baetz in Berlin, Karl Ritter in Stockholm and Jan Olsen in Copenhagen contributed to this report.
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