U.S. health officials say two people who had recently traveled to Hamburg and are now back in the United States have the bug. The agency did not say where in the U.S. the two travelers are, but 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 forc Disease Prevention and Control.
The Dutch Institute for Public Health and the Environment said that the five people in the Netherlands all recently visited Germany and four have serious kidney problems as well as stomach complaints.
It’s “extraordinary” to see so many cases of the kidney complication from a foodborne illness, said Dr. Robert Tauxe, a foodborne 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 foodborne 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, Karel Janicek in Prague and Jan Olsen in Copenhagen contributed to this report.
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