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Sprouts cause the dangerous EHEC symptoms to appear in abundance
The cause of the EHEC infections has apparently been clarified. After the Lower Saxony Minister of Agriculture Gert Lindemann had blamed the sprouts of an organic farm in the Uelzen district for the abundance of EHEC symptoms last Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute has now come to the conclusion that the sprouts are most likely the source of the Form EHEC infections - at the same time, the all-clear was given for the tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce that were previously suspected.
The riddle about the spread of the current EHEC infections seems to be solved. The president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) Reinhard Burger explained that the sprouts of the Uelzen organic farm could be "narrowed down" as the source of the infections. Together with the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and the Federal Office for Risk Assessment, the RKI announced today in Berlin that the bean sprouts could have been identified as the clear cause of the mass EHEC symptoms.
First detection of the EHEC pathogens on bean sprouts Although at the time of the press conference there was still no clear proof of the strain HUSEC 041 (serotype O104: H4) responsible for the current EHEC infection wave, the authorities unanimously agreed Conclusion that the EHEC infections have spread from the organic farm in Uelzen. So far there has been no evidence of the pathogen on the bean sprouts, but RKI President Reinhard Burger said this morning based on the delivery routes, the sprouts as a source of infection could be clearly identified. During the review of the delivery documents and the intensive questioning of the patients, the references to the sprouts as a possible cause of the EHEC infections have condensed to such an extent that the authorities assume that the source of the infection has been clearly identified - even if HUSEC 041 has not yet been detected on the sprouts could be. However, following the joint press conference of the RKI, the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety and the Federal Office for Risk Assessment, the Düsseldorf Ministry of Consumer Protection announced that researchers from North Rhine-Westphalia have for the first time detected the dangerous EHEC pathogen HUSEC 041 on the rungs of the Uelzen organic farm. However, a final review of the results is still pending.
From the EHEC symptoms to the source of the infections The authorities tracked down the EHEC pathogens by intensively questioning all patients with severe EHEC symptoms about their previous meals and other possible sources of infection. It was also helpful in identifying the source of the infection that people who had dined in the same community facility or the same restaurant frequently fell ill. Checking the delivery notes already showed some indications of a possible infection from the sprouts. Finally, the photos of a travel group also helped the experts in the search for the origin of the EHEC infections, reported Reinhard Burger. The participants had photographed their food during a visit to a restaurant and after some of them had clear EHEC symptoms, the experts took a closer look at the pictures. They discovered the bean sprouts on the salad plates of those affected, which are now the cause of the EHEC infection wave. However, despite earlier signs of the sprouts as the origin of the EHEC infections, a statistically reliable statement was not possible because a sufficient number of infected restaurant visitors had to be known and available, said the RKI President.
Humans main reservoir of the new EHEC pathogen? In addition to clearly identifying the EHEC infection source, the authorities were also able to provide further details on the new, particularly aggressive strain HUSEC 041. Contrary to the conventional enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC), the main reservoir of HUSEC 041 does not seem to be in ruminants but in humans. The Münster-based EHEC expert Helge Krach explained that the new EHEC pathogen has so far only been found in humans and it can therefore be assumed that humans form the reservoir of the outbreak strain. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in Berlin comes to a similar assessment. The situation offers several indications that humans are the source of contamination of food and the environment with the dangerous pathogen HUSEC 041, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment explained.
End of the EHEC wave of infection in sight In view of the clear determination of the EHEC source of infection, the authorities gave the all-clear for the tomatoes, cucumbers and green salads that were previously suspected. The farmers were relieved and the all-clear was welcomed abroad. The Russian government said that the stopped imports of vegetables from the EU should be re-approved in a timely manner. As soon as corresponding guarantee declarations for the safety of vegetables are available, the import of vegetables from the EU will be resumed, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev emphasized after a meeting with the EU leadership. Overall, the situation around the current EHEC epidemic in Germany seems to be slowly easing. Not only that the source of the infection could be found, but also the falling numbers of infections indicate that the wave of infections has subsided. In addition, in the wake of the crisis, physicians seem to have increasingly adjusted to the treatment of patients with severe EHEC symptoms. While initially the course of the disease was often made worse by the wrong medical treatment (e.g. with antibiotics), doctors are now particularly sensitive to the symptoms of EHEC infections and know what options for action exist. (fp)
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