EHEC infections can also be expected in the future

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The EHEC pathogen remains dangerous

Since the end of the EHEC epidemic, the pathogens have almost been forgotten in public. However, the EHEC pathogens remain dangerous, as the death of a student in Hamburg in mid-February made clear. Despite the ongoing risk from the EHEC pathogens, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) sees no reason for renewed warnings because the number of cases is within the normal range. The President of the RKI, Reinhard Burger, said in an interview with the news agency "dapd" that "a certain EHEC activity, ie a certain number of EHEC infections in Germany is normal". Burger cited “a thousand infections a year” as the order of magnitude, with “60 to 70 of these infections being severe”.

EHEC pathogens cause around 1,000 infections per year The EHEC epidemic claimed 50 lives last year. Over 4,000 people became infected with the new, particularly aggressive EHEC pathogen of strain 0104: H4, and around 800 people suffered a severe course of infection with the so-called hemolytic-uraemic syndrome. After the source of the pathogen was identified, the number of cases decreased continuously. But the new strain of bacteria has by no means simply disappeared, but is nestling in our environment, so that further infections can be expected in the future. However, the new strain was not responsible for the death of the Hamburg student. The origin of the infection remained unknown to the girl after weeks of research. After the time-consuming diagnostics have been completed, the pathogens on the potential sources of infection or in the food cycle can often no longer be detected, so that the search for the origin of the bacteria, particularly for a single infection, is similar to the search for a needle in a haystack.

Prevention as protection against EHEC infections According to the RKI President, EHEC infections are recorded every year. However, these are usually not fatal with symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Complications such as hemolytic uraemic syndrome are the exception. However, a particularly large number of people suffered from a severe course of the disease in the EHEC epidemic last year. In the event of such epidemics, prevention can save lives, explained the RKI President. “You can do a lot by organizing at the level of large-scale food production. The companies do that out of their own interest, but the spontaneous infections in the country due to insufficient cleanliness in the kitchen, etc., can never be completely avoided, ”Burger said in an interview with“ dapd ”.

Warning of cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce was appropriate The President of the RKI also defended the actions of the health authorities in the wake of the EHEC crisis. The warning given after the first deaths about eating cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce was "appropriate with the knowledge of what we had then," explained Reinhard Burger. At the end of June, the sprouts were identified as transmitters by an organic farm in northern Germany, but at the beginning there were some indications that raw cucumbers, tomatoes or lettuce could be the source of the infection. The RKI President was generally quite satisfied with the crisis management. "Of course it can always be optimized, but I don't see any major shortcomings in crisis management when looking back," Burger emphasized. (fp)

Read about EHEC:
Symptoms of an EHEC infection
No antibiotic at EHEC

Image: Gerd Altmann /

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