HPSC warns travellers to Germany of E coli outbreak


HPSC has learned that German authorities are investigating an extensive outbreak of Verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) complicated by Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS). The VTEC strain responsible for this outbreak is 0104, a strain not reported as having caused human disease in Ireland.

VTEC is a serious diarrhoeal illness which is transmitted by contaminated food or water or close contact with a person suffering from the illness. Its primary symptoms are diarrhoea (often bloody) and abdominal pain. Occasionally HUS (a form of kidney failure) can develop. More information on VTEC and HUS is available on the HPSC's website at http://www.hpsc.ie/hpsc/A-Z/Gastroenteric/VTEC).

More than 200 cases of HUS have been reported resulting in at least two deaths. The outbreak affects the entire country but primarily the northern part; most cases are adult and a majority are female. Ireland has not yet seen any cases associated with this outbreak. Other European countries have seen cases among travellers returning from Germany.

Early indications are that the source of the outbreak is food, most likely salad ingredients such as raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce. Authorities in Germany are advising the public not to eat raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce, especially in the north of the country, until further notice.

HPSC advises that anyone travelling to Germany should follow the advice regarding this outbreak from the German authorities. In addition, returning travellers with illness including bloody diarrhoea should seek urgent medical attention and make sure they mention any recent travel history.

HPSC and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland are monitoring this evolving situation closely. Health professionals are being alerted to the situation and they are advised to urgently investigate potential VTEC cases with a travel history to Germany.