This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

New E. Coli Outbreak Threatens Europeans

In 1935 Hans Zinsser reminded us that bugs are always waiting in the shadows "ready to pounce when neglect, poverty, famine, or war lets down the defenses." It seems this week that someone in Europe let down the defenses:

Scientists on Thursday blamed Europe's worst recorded food-poisoning outbreak on a "super-toxic" strain of E. coli bacteria that may be brand new.
But while suspicion has fallen on raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce as the source of the germ, researchers have been unable to pinpoint the food responsible for the frightening illness, which has killed at least 18 people, sickened more than 1,600 and spread to least 10 European countries.
An alarmingly large number of victims — about 500 — have developed kidney complications that can be deadly.
Although there were early reports that the problem arose in Spain, this seems not to be true:
Nearly all the sick either live in Germany or recently traveled there. British officials announced four new cases, including three Britons who recently visited Germany and a German on vacation in England.
Some scientists suspect the deadly E. coli might have been in manure used to fertilize vegetables.
Health officials are also concerned about secondary infections, "which often happens when children are infected. E. coli is present in feces and can be spread by sloppy bathroom habits, such as failure to wash one's hands."

UPDATE--After 33 known deaths, German officials have traced the deadly bacteria to bean sprouts grown in Germany:

After a weeks-long hunt for the elusive source of the contamination, German officials said they were confident they had found the origin.
"It's the sprouts," Reinhard Burger, the president of the Robert Koch Institute, the national disease centre, told a news conference on the outbreak of enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) in northern Germany.
"People who ate sprouts were found to be nine times more likely to have bloody diarrhoea or other signs of EHEC infection than those who did not," he said, citing a study of more than 100 people who fell ill after dining in restaurants.

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