June 18, 2023:-Health authorities in Norway and Austria are actively investigating separate E. coli outbreaks that have recently affected individuals in both countries.
In Norway, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) has initiated an investigation into an E. coli outbreak that has sickened six people across various regions of the country. All six patients tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 with the same genetic profile. While two cases were reported in late 2022, the remaining four occurred between February and May of this year. Fortunately, none of the affected individuals have experienced severe complications, and their ages range from 14 to 49, with five of them being male.
The FHI, along with municipal chief medical officers, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet), and the Veterinary Institute, are collectively working to determine the source of the infection. At present, officials suspect a food product with a lengthy shelf life that is distributed nationwide. Interviews are being conducted to identify any common sources of infection among the patients. However, finding the exact origin of the outbreak can be challenging.
To aid in the investigation, the Norwegian Veterinary Institute will analyze samples of potential food items that could be linked to the infections. Mattilsynet is assisting by gathering information from the affected individuals and their families. Turid Berglund from Mattilsynet emphasized the importance of conducting interviews to determine food consumption patterns and possible contacts. Samples from food, leftovers, and packaging will also be collected to help identify the source of the infection.
In Austria, authorities are dealing with a separate E. coli incident. Since late May, several children in the Frastanz area have fallen ill with infections caused by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). Eleven children and young people have been affected, primarily from three childcare facilities. The specific serotype of E. coli involved has not yet been disclosed.
Out of the affected children, at least two have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe complication associated with E. coli infections, while four have been hospitalized. Hygiene inspections have been conducted at the affected childcare facilities, with specific recommendations for cleaning and disinfection provided. Initial food samples collected for analysis have tested negative for the presence of E. coli.
Further investigations are underway, with additional swab and food samples from the affected facilities and central kitchen being sent to the Austrian Food Safety Agency (AGES) reference laboratory. Officials are actively working to determine the cause of the illnesses, and three children remain hospitalized at this time.
Out of the affected children, at least two have developed HUS, and four have been hospitalized, according to authorities in the province of Vorarlberg. Hygiene inspections have been conducted at the three childcare facilities, with recommendations for cleaning and disinfection provided. Food samples collected for analysis have all tested negative thus far. Additional swab and food samples from the affected facilities and central kitchen have been sent to the Austrian Food Safety Agency (AGES) reference laboratory for further investigation.