Three people with symptoms of E coli bacterial infection have died in Germany since Saturday and another 400 cases of infection were recorded as of Tuesday night. According to press reports, health authorities revealed that the latest fatality was a 24-year-old woman, who died on Monday. An 83-year-old woman died from bloody diarrhea on Saturday while another elderly woman died Sunday.
Experts said the current rate of infection is higher than ever previously recorded. Furthermore, this strain – E. coli O104 – is not following normal patterns. According to Werner Wunderle, director of the Bremen Health Authority this time raw vegetables and salads are the likely source. In addition, laboratory tests show the current strain is resistant to antibiotics.
“The number of serious cases in such a short time period is very unusual, and the age groups affected is also atypical,” said the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s national disease control and prevention agency. Currently the majority of those affected are adults, in most cases women, whereas previous outbreaks had principally hit children.
“The source of the outbreak has not yet been identified,” RKI head Reinhard Burger said. “We have to say clearly that we have to expect more fatalities in view of the high number of cases.” RKI head Burger called the recent number of recorded cases “scarily high”.
The RKI said more than 80 cases of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) had been reported in the past two weeks, a life-threatening disease caused by infection with the enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) strain of which E. coli O104 is one.