Norway: Outbreak of E.coli-infection (EHEC-infection)

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Published on 27 March 2009, 03:54 Last Update: 7 hour(s) ago by Insciences


The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has confirmed the same DNA strain of the bacterium E.coli O157 (EHEC) among the three children with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) that have been reported this year. The first child became ill in January, the second in February and the third in March. In addition, a sibling of one of the children has also developed HUS, but it has not yet been confirmed whether this is the same bacterial strain. As the patients are from three different counties in Norway, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health is now handling these cases as a national disease outbreak.

The four children involved are under ten years of age and live in Eid in Sogn og Fjordane, Tromsø in Troms and Malvik in Sør-Trøndelag. One of the children has died from the disease.

E. coli are intestinal bacteria that are normally found in large amounts in animals and humans. These bacteria are usually harmless but certain strains can cause serious disease. One of these strains is the EHEC bacterium. HUS is a serious kidney disease that among children can be blamed on toxin-producing EHEC-bacteria. These bacteria usually infect from food or other sources (water, contact with animals). It is too early to comment on the cause of this outbreak. A broad investigation has begun where all possibilities are kept open but such investigations take time and the source of infection cannot always be identified.

In co-operation with local health officials, the local Food Safety Authorities in the respective counties have taken samples from the patients’ leftover food and interviewed their parents. Samples of food have been sent to the Veterinary Institute for analysis. If E.coli-bacteria are identified in the samples, they are sent to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health for DNA-analysis of the bacterial strain. The interview forms are also sent to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health for comparison to find possible links about the infection source.

The National Committee for Food-borne Diseases will be summoned to advise the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Food Safety Authority on the next stages of investigation. International networks will also be called upon as required.

People, particularly children, with bloody diarrhoea should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Health professionals and hospitals should test patients with bloody diarrhoea for possible EHEC and report suspected cases of EHEC and/or HUS to local health officials and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health’s Infectious Disease Control.

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority is leading and co-ordinating the investigation in the food chain, in co-operation with the Veterinary Institute. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health is leading and co-ordinating the investigation in the population.




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