Finnish EHEC infection is not likely to have been caused by a foreign strain
The infected patient has not been travelling abroad lately
Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) is currently examining whether or not a patient who was brought to Helsinki’s Maria Hospital last weekend is suffering from an infection caused by an enterohemorrhagic strain of the bacterium Escherichia coli (EHEC).
”THL is to report on Wednesday whether the patient with bloody diarrhea was infected by the same strain of the EHEC bacterium as the one raging in Germany. Tentatively, it seems that the strain is not the same”, reports infectious diseases specialist Hannele Kotilainen of the City of Helsinki.
Kotilainen says that the patient, who is already recovering, has not been travelling abroad lately. The patient will be interviewed tomorrow in order that the source of the infection could be found.
In Germany, the number of deaths caused by the EHEC bacterium increased to 14 on Monday, according to international news agencies.
The number of infected people is in the hundreds, and some cases of the disease have been reported even elsewhere in Europe.
The source of the EHEC bacterium is believed to have been cucumbers imported from Spain. However, on Monday evening the authorities in Madrid denied that the infected cucumbers had come from Spanish growers.
The Finnish Food Safety Authority (EVIRA) reported on Friday that it is unlikely that Spanish cucumbers contaminated by the EHEC bacterium have been imported into Finland.
BACKGROUND: An EHEC infection could lead to kidney damage
Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a bacterium that is commonly found in the lower intestines of humans and warm-blooded animals.
Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some, such as EHEC, can cause bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps. EHEC can also cause hemolytic-uremic syndrome and sudden kidney failure.
The EHEC bacterium is transmitted to humans primarily through consumption of water contaminated by faeces, raw or undercooked food products, unpasteurized milk, and unwashed vegetables.
Person-to-person contact is also an important mode of transmission as a consequence of poor hand hygiene.
According to the National Institute for Health and Welfare, the incidence of the EHEC infections in Finland is about 20 to 40 cases per year, while the proportion of infections contracted abroad is around 20 per cent.
In the period from 1996 to 2002, two children and five adults have died in Finland from hemolytic-uremic syndrome caused by an EHEC infection.
The best way to prevent EHEC infections is to wash the hands thoroughly before cooking and to rinse all fruits and vegetables with plenty of clean water.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Food Safety Authority: Spanish cucumbers infected with EHEC have not been imported into Finland (30.5.2011)
Escherichia coli (Wikipedia)
National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)