EHEC outbreak: Rare strain of E. coli unknown in previous outbreaks

The strain of enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O104:H4 isolated from cases in the EHEC infection outbreak in Germany is a rare one, seen in humans before but never in an EHEC outbreak. This has been confirmed by the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Escherichia and Klebsiella, the Statens Serum Institut in Denmark.

The molecular/genetic features of this pathogen are important in helping authorities to identify cases in other countries that could be associated with the outbreak in Germany and to identify the source of the outbreak. While epidemiological and laboratory investigations continue, the source of the outbreak still remains unknown.

WHO is not making any new recommendations for treatment. Normal hygiene measures should be observed: hand washing after toilet use and before touching food. Anyone who develops bloody diarrhoea and abdominal pain, and who has had contact recently with northern Germany, should seek medical advice urgently.