Jun 1, 2011 in Blog Articles

The outbreak in Germany of Escherichia coli or E coli is believed to be the very rare strain 0104. Latest figures claim that 1150 people have been infected which has resulted in 373 becoming very ill resulting in the death of 16 with Haemolytic uraemic Syndrome (HUS). Most E coli bacteria are normally harmless and are very common but a few strains can cause severe illness …the rare 0104 strain is one such. HUS symptoms include bloody diarrhoea, kidney failure and epileptic fits. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described the outbreak as “very large and very severe.”The bacterium E coli is spread through contaminated food and water or contact with animals, and can produce toxins that cause human disease. Cattle and other ruminants can be healthy carriers of the bacterium which can be spread through fecal contamination.The source of the virulent strain of the bacteria is still not known, but scientists said that the suspicions about vegetables or slads were well founded since cattle manure used in fertiliser can harbour E coli. Spain was fingered by Cornelia Prufer-Storcks, Hamburg’s state health minister, as the source but admitted later that tests on two Spanish cucumbers had found a different strain of E coli (harmless?) from that carried by patients who have HUS.Advice from the Food Standards Agency: “It’s a good idea to wash fruit and vegetables before you eat them to ensure that they are clean, and to help remove germs that might be on the outside…peeling or cooking fruit and vegetables can also remove these germs.” However, more may be needed according to Dr Nicola Holden of The James Hutton Institute who says that “the bacteria are able to get from animal sources on to crops through different routes, most likely in irrigation water or sometimes from slurry spraying…the threat to human health occurs because these bacteria are not simply sitting on the surface of the plant and are particularly difficult to remove post-harvet.” What she was saying is that the bacteria can colonise plant roots, moving up to the edible foliage or fruits.So where could the source of this nasty strain of E coli be? Well I have highlighted in italics that the danger is contaminated water used in irrigation and spraying, and in the use of manure as fertiliser. This once again highlights the need for effective waste water treatment and filtration, which can be provided by Filcon Filters.