As of yesterday, three German women have died today from E. coli O104. German health officials have found another 400 confirmed cases – mostly young women. The first cases emerged barely two weeks ago and authorities have been shocked at the rate at which this outbreak has spread. Over a hundred patients are being treated in the hospital. As of yesterday morning, 140 patients with the E. coli O104 infections had gone on to develop the Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). The deaths and number of ill are likely to rise in the coming days. The vector has yet to be determined, but German health officials suspect fresh vegetables.
Earlier this month Japanese police raided a low-price Korean-style barbecue restaurant chain to investigate the deaths of four people from food poisoning after they ate raw beef at its outlets. Police officers searched the head office of the chain’s operator Yakiniku-zakaya Ebisu barbecue chain and its supplier, Food Forus Co in Kanazawa in central Japan. Ninety diners had fallen sick after eating raw beef at eateries in near Tokyo and on Honshu Island since April 19, the health ministry said, of whom 23 were seriously ill (ie, HUS). E. coli O111 was detected in the four fatal cases.
In the United States, non-O157 STECS cause 113,000 cases of foodborne illness each year. Yet, none of these pathogenic bacteria are considered to be an adulterant (E. coli O157:H7 is) by Dr. Hagen’s FSIS, whose Mission Statement is:
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.
A large non-O157 STEC outbreak under Dr. Hagen’s watch is coming – it is just a matter of time – the question is whether she will get on the right side of history and get her agency prepared to deal with it, or will she wait until the bodies stack up like in Germany and Japan before she acts?