E coli – Myanmar

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Outbreaks of diarrhoea have been reported in Rakhine township of Myanmar. More than 200 have been infected and seven children below 1 year old which include one and 5 months old infants died due to infection.

Contaminated water or food is investigated for the source of infection.

The diarrhoeal outbreak due to contaminated food or water can be prevented by drinking boiled water and washing hands before and after handling food.

Around 210 people infected were advised to use boiled water for drinking. The health authorities also have advised people to maintain toilet hygiene to prevent future outbreaks.

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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