E coli: the deadly European outbreak

Thursday, June 2, 2011 - 11:00 in Health & Medicine

Questions and answers about the virulent strain of the E coli bacterium, which has killed 17 people and left more than 1,500 illWhat is E coli?Escherichia coli (E coli) is a bacterium commonly found in the gut of humans and warm-blooded animals. Most strains are harmless but some, such as enterohemorrhagic E coli (EHEC), can cause serious illness.People catch E coli mostly through foodstuffs, including raw or undercooked ground meat products and milk. Examples of foods involved in previous E coli outbreaks include undercooked hamburgers, dried cured salami, unpasteurised fresh-pressed apple cider, yoghurt, cheese and milk.An increasing number of outbreaks have been linked with eating fruit and vegetables (such as sprouts, lettuce, coleslaw, salad). In these cases, contamination occurs due to contact with animal faeces.EHEC is destroyed by cooking foods thoroughly to a temperature of at least 70C.What about this latest strain?Scientists are still trying to work out exactly which...

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