Local Health Official Weighs In On E. Coli Outbreak In Europe

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A strain of the bacteria E. coli has Europeans sick and worried.

Will it be a problem here?

“I think in the United States we don’t have to have the degree of worry that we do if you lived in Europe,” says Dr. Bruce Dixon of the Allegheny County Health Department. “We don’t import our vegetables or foodstuffs from the European continent.”

The outbreak has nearly 2,000 sick in Germany, more than 500 with complications that can affect the kidneys. So far, 18 people have died just from eating contaminated food.

“There seems to be very little person to person spread of this,” reassures Dr. Dixon.

This is a unique strain of bacteria — especially infectious and it releases a toxin that can make people very sick – adults and women in particular.

“The symptoms are severe diarrhea, often times with blood,” explains Dr. Dixon.

Where the E. coli is coming from is still under investigation.

“The leading thought is that it came from cucumbers. It probably represents some animal E. coli that’s used as a fertilizer or that’s in the ground that the foodstuffs come in contact with,” Dr. Dixon says.

Until that’s figured out, European health officials are advising that everyone avoid raw vegetables — lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers.

“If we’re going to eat uncooked foods and vegetables, we ought to wash the outside thoroughly before we start to cut into them,” advises Dr. Dixon.

The World Health Organization is recommending that you separate raw and cooked meat from other food and wash any raw fruits and vegetables.

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