E coli cases still piling up as trade dispute persists

Jun 20, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – More than 80 additional cases were reported in Germany's enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) outbreak over the weekend, as European and Russian officials continued to spar over Russia's ban on European vegetables.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reported 12 more cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), with 2 deaths, and 74 more cases of E coli without HUS, since Jun 17, all in Germany. The non-HUS death toll was reduced by 1 after the report was identified as a data-entry error, the ECDC said.

The ECDC's total case count is 3,593, with 40 deaths. That included 849 HUS cases with 28 deaths and 2,744 non-HUS E coli cases with 12 deaths.

The World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, reported slightly higher numbers than the ECDC today, with the inclusion of cases in Canada, Switzerland, and the United States making the difference. The WHO count was 3,604 cases with 40 deaths. The number included 1 EHEC case in Canada, 5 EHEC cases in Switzerland, and, in the United States, 3 HUS cases and 2 EHEC cases.

All but 108 cases occurred in Germany, according to the WHO. Besides Germany, 15 countries have had cases tied to the outbreak.

The daily numbers of new cases have declined steadily since May 21, the WHO said. It said the continued climb in cumulative numbers is mainly due to reporting delays.

The latest date of onset for an EHEC case is Jun 13 and the latest date for an HUS case is Jun 12, the WHO reported. It also noted that all but five of the cases were in people who had traveled t or lived in Germany before they got sick, and the other five cases can also be linked to the outbreak in Germany.

Meanwhile, European officials said they would send a delegation to Moscow soon to try to persuade Russia to lift its ban on vegetables from EU countries, according to a Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) report today. The outbreak has been tied to sprouts, but cucumbers, lettuce, and tomatoes were suspected earlier, which prompted Russia's ban early this month.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had agreed on Jun 10 that Moscow would lift its ban if the EU instituted a new safety certification process for vegetables, the story said.

EU officials have accused Russia of dragging its feet on implementing the pact and have argued that the certification is no longer needed because the outbreak has been contained, according to the report. But Russian officials have accused the Europeans of failing to abide by the agreement.

The report said the EU exports 1.1 million tons of vegetables to Russia annually.

In other developments, a Russian health official, Gennadi Onischenko, said yesterday that his government expected to receive a sample of the E coli outbreak strain today, according to a Jun 19 RIA Novosti report. A WHO collaborating laboratory in Rome was sending the sample, he said.

See also:

Jun 20 ECDC case count

Jun 20 WHO update

Jun 20 DPA story

Jun 19 RIA Novosti story

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