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New E. Coli Strain Responsible for Outbreak

The strand of E. coli responsible for the food-borne illness outbreak in Germany is rare and deadly.

E. Coli On Lettuce

Photo: AgriLife Today (Flickr)

This electron microscope image of lettuce shows rod-shaped e. coli bacteria tucked inside the stoma of the plant.

Bigger Badder E. Coli

According to the World Health Organization, the strain of E. coli in the recent Germany outbreak “is a rare one, seen in humans before but never in an EHEC (E. coli) outbreak.”

As it stands now, it is unclear where the E. coli infected produce came from, although the 17 people who have been killed in the outbreak are all from or recently visited northern Germany. The hope is that the unusual molecular features of this strand of E. coli could help scientists identify the source.

Scientists working on the case say that this new strand of E. coli is especially toxic because it causes a medical complication that attacks the kidneys, known as hemolytic uremic syndrome.

The Politics Of Outbreaks

On top of the health concerns, politics are becoming a factor in dealing with the outbreak.

Russia has banned imports on all vegetables from the EU saying it has “run out of patience with the WHO.” The United Arab Emirates has temporarily banned cucumbers from Spain, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

The EU calls these actions “disproportionate.”

Originally it was thought that the E. coli outbreak came from cucumbers imported from Spain, but this accusation has since been proven false.

Precautions

As a safety precaution, the WHO urges everyone to wash their hands before touching food and after using the bathroom.

Anyone who has recently been to northern Germany and has abdominal pain or bloody diarrhea sound seek medical attention immediately.

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Julie Rooney

Julie Rooney is a vegetarian, musician, and artist who primarily works in video and new media. Currently she is the director of Low Road Gallery, a non-profit contemporary art gallery located in Greencastle, Indiana.

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