Austrian authorities are investigating an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections that has affected a handful of people.
Between September and December 2020, six people fell ill with infections from E. coli O146:H28. Those sick live in five federal states. Two people needed hospital treatment.
As yet, there is no indication as to the source of the outbreak, according to the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES). It is understood other countries in Europe have not reported related infections.
The Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection (BMSGPK) has instructed AGES to investigate the outbreak with the relevant state authorities.
Austrian food testing in 2018 found E. coli O146 in three samples of fresh game meat and one sample of fermented sausage. In 2017, four isolates were typed as E. coli O146 from two samples of raw meat from wild ruminants, fresh bovine meat and a fermented sausage.
The latest Zoonoses Report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) shows E. coli O146 was the fifth most frequent serogroup reported in confirmed human infections in 2018.
About E. coli infections
Anyone who has developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.
The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
About 5 percent to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.
Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.
People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.
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