Effective June 2, 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued an outbreak notice for E. coli infections in Germany.
German health authorities have reported cases of a severe illness called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially life-threatening complication of E. coli infections.
HUS develops when E. coli bacteria in the digestive system produce toxins that destroy red blood cells. These cells clog the kidneys’ filtering system, leading to kidney injury and even kidney failure.
The syndrome often begins with abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, vomiting and fever. People with this condition may experience decreased urination and symptoms of anemia. Signs of HUS typically start five to seven days after the onset of diarrhea. HUS is a serious condition, but can be cured with appropriate treatment.
The outbreak, which started in Germany in early May, has so far sickened more than 1,000 people. Many have been hospitalized, and some have died. New cases are still being reported.
German health authorities suspect that the source is contaminated raw vegetables, but have not yet confirmed a source. They are still investigating.
Until further notice, travelers to Germany should avoid eating cucumbers, tomatoes and leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach.
If you have traveled to Germany and have symptoms of HUS, see a doctor right away.