Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Virulent Strain of E. Coli Has Europeans Alarmed
The English-language branch of Der Spiegel has this story about an outbreak that originated in Spain and/or Germany and has claimed 15 lives so far:
...The eeriest thing of all, according to Rolf Stahl, is the way patients change. "Their awareness becomes blurred, they have problems finding words and they don't quite know where they are," says Stahl. And then there is this surprising aggressiveness. "We are dealing with a completely new clinical picture," he notes.
Stahl, a 62-year-old kidney specialist, has been the head of the Third Medical Clinic and Polyclinic at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) for almost 18 years. "But none of us doctors has ever experienced anything quite like this," he says. His staff has been working around the clock for the last week or so. "We decide at short notice who can go and get some sleep."
The bacterium that is currently terrifying the country is an enterohemorrhagic strain of the bacterium Escherichia coli (EHEC), a close relative of harmless intestinal bacteria, but one that produces the dangerous Shiga toxin. All it takes is about 100 bacteria -- which isn't much in the world of bacteria, which are normally counted by the millions -- to become infected. After an incubation period of two to 10 days, patients experience watery or bloody diarrhea....