Young people died of EHEC infection
The dramatic consequences of infection with bacteria of the genus Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) only became clear to many people in Germany in the context of the 2011 EHEC epidemic. But even in normal times, without an acute outbreak, people keep getting EHEC. In North Rhine-Westphalia, such an infection has now claimed the death toll, according to media reports.
A 16-year-old adolescent from Erwitte in the Soest district has died of an EHEC infection, reports the news agency "dpa", referring to the testimony of a district speaker. The person affected had developed a so-called hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), which subsequently led to multi-organ failure. The way in which the adolescent got infected remains open. No further EHEC infections have so far been reported in the Soest district. However, the current case is not yet shown in the official statistics of the State Center for Health (LZG) in North Rhine-Westphalia.
EHEC symptoms are often unspecific at first
The EHEC intestinal germs are mostly ingested through contaminated food and it is not uncommon for an infection to go relatively unnoticed. However, symptoms such as fever, diarrhea (including bloody diarrhea), severe abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting are usually the typical symptoms of an EHEC infection. In the case of particularly severe courses, the development of a so-called hemolytic-uraemic syndrome, including kidney damage, which can extend to kidney failure, is at risk. In the worst case scenario, there is a fatal multi-organ failure. Because EHEC is extremely contagious, the outbreak is continuously monitored by the responsible health authorities. Without the current case, 65 corresponding infections in NRW have already been registered with the LGZ this year. However, none of the infections were fatal.
Relatively few EHEC infections in Germany
According to official figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), 231 people in Germany suffered from an EHEC infection in January and February this year. For comparison: more than 8,500 people suffered a norovirus infection in the same period. Accordingly, the outbreak of EHEC intestinal germs is extremely manageable and cannot be compared to the situation in 2011, when thousands of people, particularly in northern Germany, contracted the intestinal germs and a total of 53 people succumbed to the consequences of this infection.
The route of infection remains unclear
In the 2015 infection report, the LZG registered a total of 268 Ehec diseases and the following year around 90 more cases in NRW. However, Ehec deaths have not occurred in the two years, a spokeswoman for the Landeszentrum Gesundheit (LZG) NRW reports to the “dpa”. In view of the fact that no further infections have so far been reported from the district of Soest, the fatal illness of the 16-year-olds is rather to be assessed as a tragic individual case and offers no cause for concern about a major outbreak. In such cases, however, it is generally difficult to determine the exact route of infection, and so I cannot completely rule out that other people become infected in the same way. (fp)