E coli EHEC – South Korea

An E. coli outbreak in the city of Ansan, about 50 kilometers south of Seoul, has caused 22 kindergarten students to become hospitalized. A futher 111 people show signs of illness. The source of the bacteria is yet unknown.

The outbreak centered on the kindergarten in Ansan as health authorities collected samples from all 202 students and teachers for clinical analysis.

As of Saturday June 13, 111 of them showed symptoms of hemolytic-uremic syndrome, caused by a type of E. coli that can cause kidney failure.

The number of patients has been increasing since four children complained of stomachache on June 16.

Health authorities have conducted epidemiological research, suspecting the mass food poisoning may have been caused by lunch provided by the kindergarten.

The kindergarten has been ordered to close until the end of this month.

Photo: E coli at 10 000 x magnification.

Hemolytic–uremic syndrome is a group of blood disorders characterized by low red blood cells and acute kidney failure. Initial symptoms typically include bloody diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and weakness. Most cases occur after infectious diarrhea due to a specific type of E. coli called O157:H7. The underlying mechanism typically involves the production of Shiga toxin by the bacteria.

After eating contaminated food, the first symptoms of infection can emerge anywhere from 1 to 10 days later, but usually after 3 to 4 days. These early symptoms can include diarrhea (which is often bloody), stomach cramps, mild fever, or vomiting that results in dehydration and reduced urine. Hemolytic uremic syndrome typically develops about 5 to 10 days after the first symptoms, but can take up to 3 weeks to manifest, and occurs at a time when the diarrhea is improving.

The country with the highest incidence of hemolytic-uremic syndrome is Argentina. But it can occur in frequently large outbreaks in any country.

Hemolytic-uremic syndrome is sometimes called hamburger disease, related to the first recorded outbreak, of the then rare strain O157:H7, linked to a chain restaurant that served under cooked hamburgers.

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