E coli – Austria
Austrian authorities are investigating an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections that has affected a handful of people.
Between September and December 2020, six people fell ill with infections from E. coli O146:H28. Those sick live in five federal states. Two people needed hospital treatment.
As yet, there is no indication as to the source of the outbreak, according to the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES). It is understood other countries in Europe have not reported related infections.
Photo: E coli at 10 000 x magnification.
Some strains of E. coli are harmful. Shigatoxigenic Escherichia coli (STEC) and verotoxigenic E. coli (VTEC) are strains of the bacterium Escherichia coli that produce either Shiga toxin or Shiga-like toxin (verotoxin). Only a minority of the strains cause illness in humans. These are collectively known as enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC).
They are a major cause of foodborne-illness. When infecting humans, they often cause gastroenteritis, enterocolitis, bloody diarrhea, and sometimes cause a severe complication called hemolytic-uremic syndrome.
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.
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