Frequently asked questions on the EHEC infection outbreak in Germany



1. How did WHO get to know about the outbreak?

Under the International Health Regulations, all countries are requested to inform WHO of any public health event of potential international concern. Germany first notified WHO on 22 May 2011.

2. What is being done to tackle the outbreak?

Germany and other affected countries are actively working to investigate the epidemiology and the vehicle of the outbreak. This involves interviewing patients about their whereabouts and food exposures, and conducting thorough microbiological analyses, food analyses and food trace-back investigations. The aim is to identify the source to contain the outbreak and prevent future similar outbreaks.

3. What is WHO/Europe doing about it?

WHO/Europe is monitoring the enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) infection outbreak in Germany with concern, given the size and severity of the outbreak and the unusually high proportion of adults affected with haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS). It is working closely with its Member States both inside and outside the European Union and international partners such as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, offering technical expertise and support and ensuring that information from cases in other countries is provided to German authorities to help with their investigations. In Germany, the Robert Koch Institute, the food safety authorities, and regional and local public health authorities continue to investigate the outbreak. WHO/Europe has offered support to the German authorities in monitoring the situation and, through its network of collaborating centres, is facilitating laboratory investigations for those countries without the facilities to detect the unusual serotype.

WHO encourages countries to share alert information on this outbreak with the relevant public health authorities and clinicians, to enable the timely recognition of potential cases of EHEC and HUS that could be related to this outbreak. Under the International Health Regulations, countries are requested to notify WHO of all public health events of potential international concern.

4. What does WHO think of banning imports of fresh produce from affected countries?

WHO does not recommend any restrictions on travel in or trade with Germany or other countries affected in this outbreak, but it does recommend strengthened surveillance. WHO is the main agency responsible for ensuring timely and accurate exchange of information between countries in and beyond Europe.