EHEC outbreak: update 16

On 10 June, German authorities stated that mounting epidemiological and food-chain evidence indicated that bean and seed sprouts (including fenugreek, mung beans, lentils, adzuki beans and alfalfa) are the vehicle of the outbreak in Germany.

Mounting evidence, new recommendations

On 10 June, authorities from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) jointly stated that mounting epidemiological and food-chain evidence indicated that bean and seed sprouts (including fenugreek, mung beans, lentils, adzuki beans and alfalfa) are the vehicle of the outbreak in Germany caused by the unusual enteroaggregative verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (EAggEC VTEC) O104:H4 bacterium.

  • The authorities now recommend that people in Germany should not eat raw bean and seed sprouts of any origin. Households, caterers and restaurants should dispose of any bean and seed sprouts that they have, and any food items that might have been in contact with them, until further notice.
  • In addition, BfR advises against eating home-grown, uncooked sprouts and seedlings.
  • The recommendation not to eat cucumbers, tomatoes and leafy salads in northern Germany is cancelled.
  • The authorities recommend withdrawal from the market of all food products from a farm in Lower Saxony, where the implicated bean and seed sprouts originated.
  • Numerous investigations continue, including into delivery chains. So far, there is no evidence that bean and seed sprouts from the farm have been exported beyond Germany.
  • The authorities recommend strict adherence to general hygiene advice when handling food items, after using the toilet and when health professionals are in contact with patients.
    BfR, BVL and RKI issued a joint press release on 10 June with more details. The press release was updated on 12 and 13 June.

Haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS)

As of 14 June at 15:00 CET, Germany had reported 784 HUS cases (including 23 fatalities): 2 more cases and 1 more death since the previous day. 68% of cases were in females and 88% in adults aged 20 years or older, with the highest attack rates per 100 000 population in the group aged 20–49 years. Case-onset dates ranged from 1 May to 8 June.

Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC)

As of 14 June at 15:00 CET, 2470 cases of EHEC infection (without HUS) had been reported in Germany (13 fatal): 17 more cases and no more deaths since the previous day. 59% of cases were in females and 87% in adults aged 20 years or older. Case-onset dates ranged from 1 May to 11 June.

On 15 June, RKI stated that, for approximately the past week, the number of notified HUS/EHEC cases reported to it had markedly declined. Data from sentinel surveillance of bloody diarrhoea in hospital emergency departments also suggest a decrease in the absolute and relative numbers of cases presenting since 30 May. It is still uncertain whether this decline in outbreak activity is due to changing consumption of raw vegetables and/or the waning of the source of infection.
Other countries

As of 14 June, 13 other European countries had reported a total of 36 HUS cases (1 fatal) and 66 EHEC cases (none fatal): In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, United States of America published information on 3 HUS cases (1 confirmed and 2 suspected) and 2 suspected EHEC cases (without HUS) in the United States linked to this outbreak. On 7 June, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported on 1 suspected case of E. coli O104 infection (without HUS), in a person with travel history to northern Germany and with links to a confirmed case of E. coli O104 infection in Germany.

Since 10 June, no more HUS or EHEC cases or deaths have been reported from outside Germany.

The table shows totals for all affected countries.

Country
HUS
EHEC
Comments
 Cases Deaths
 Cases  Deaths  
Austria 1
 0 3
0
 
Canada  0 0
 1  0  
Czech Republic 0
 0 1
 0 A tourist from the United States who had travelled in Germany
Denmark 8
0
12
 0  
France 0
0
2
0

Germany
 784  23  2470 13  
Greece 0
 0  1 0
A German tourist
Luxembourg 0
 0 2 0
 
Netherlands 4
 0 4
0
 
Norway 0
0
1
0
Contact with a German in Norway
Poland 2
0
1  0  
Spain 1
 0 1
0
 
Sweden 17
1
30
0
 
Switzerland 0
0
5
0
 
United Kingdom 3
0
3 0

United States of America  3 0
 2 0
3 HUS cases (1 confirmed and 2 suspected) and 2 suspected EHEC cases
 Total  823  24  2539  13  

Note: There are 3343 HUS and EHEC cases in total, including 37 fatalities.

All but 5 of the above HUS and EHEC cases were in people who had travelled to or lived in Germany during the incubation period for infection, typically 3–4 days after exposure (range: 2–10 days). Nevertheless, all 5 of these cases can be linked to the outbreak in Germany.

Note

EHEC and HUS have exclusive notification categories, so case numbers should not overlap. The figures in any rapidly evolving outbreak, however, are provisional and subject to change for a variety of reasons.

In providing the above information, WHO wishes to recognize the contribution of its Member States, and technical partners such as the European Commission, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and a number of WHO collaborating centres.