June 7, 2011
Allianz Worldwide Care’s insured members are fully covered for all
necessary out-patient as well as hospital treatment required due to
contraction of EHEC.
The ongoing outbreak of E.Coli O104:H4
originated in Germany in
May 2011 after a number of people were infected following consumption of
raw vegetables from a shop in Northern Germany. Further cases have been
reported in a number of countries including Switzerland, Poland,
Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and the UK.
To date there have been 3,604 cases of EHEC/HUS infection, resulting in 40
deaths, and numbers are set to increase while scientists struggle to
identify the original source of the infection.
Bacterium Escherichia coli (commonly abbreviated to E. coli and named
after Theodor Escherich) is commonly found in the intestine of
warm-blooded organisms, including humans. As part of the normal
beneficial flora of the gut, it produces vitamin K2 and helps to prevent
the establishment of pathogenic bacteria in the intestine. Most E. coli
strains are harmless, but some, such as serotype O104:H4 cause serious
food poisoning in humans.
EHEC O104:H4 (Entero-hemorrhagic E.coli) is the most infamous member of
E.coli. It causes an intense inflammatory response resulting in bloody
diarrhea and in some cases hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) leading to
acute kidney failure and death. The current outbreak seems to be caused
by a new strain containing gene sequences which make it resistant to
antibiotics, so treatment is currently limited to supportive care such
as fluid replacement, cardiovascular support, and in severe cases,
dialysis and ICU care.
How can you protect yourself and your family against EHEC?
- Wash raw vegetables and fruit thoroughly with hot water before
consumption, rubbing and/or peeling them if possible. Due to the
severity of the recent outbreak, the Robert Koch Institute in Germany
currently recommends that people do not eat raw tomatoes, cucumbers or
- As the pathogens and toxins are sensitive to heat, cooking,
roasting and barbecuing are the best prevention. There is no indication
of any transmission through raw meat or raw milk yet, however as a
precaution, the Robert Koch Institute recommends that people boil raw
milk. Pasteurized or UHT milk may be consumed as normal.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, using plenty of soap,
and dry them with disposable paper towels, especially after contact with
- Store and prepare raw food separately from other edibles.
- Wash surfaces that have been in contact with raw produce with plenty of hot water and dishwashing liquid.
- Machine wash kitchen cloths (using the hot water cycle) after
preparation of raw meat and vegetables. Where possible, use disposable
If you start to have bloody diarrhea, seek medical advice immediately
for observation and diagnostic clarification! If during or after
diarrhea you experience symptoms such as severe fatigue, doughy
swellings of the legs (edema) or dysfunctions such as muscle twitching
and/or cramps, you should also seek medical advice immediately.
Dr Ulrike Sucher
Allianz Worldwide Care
International Healthcare News from Dr. Ulli //