At least 16 people in Germany have died after coming into contact with a rare strain of Escherichia coli (E. coli).
The outbreak, which is currently thought to have originated from organic cucumbers that came into contact with cattle faeces in Spain, has so far infected around 1200 people, 373 of whom have reported symptoms which can range from bloody diarrhoea to kidney failure.
Though most E. coli strains are harmless (and are in fact part of the normal flora of the gut), this strain called STEC, carries genes for a toxin that damages capillaries in the gut, causing bloody diarrhoea. It also activates the clotting system, blocking capillaries and damaging organs.
The Health Protection Agency and Food Standards Agency are recommending that people follow the advice of the German government:
Avoid eating raw cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce in or from the affected region of Germany.
They also advise anyone who has returned from Germany and become sick with bloody diarrhoea to seek urgent medical attention.
Source : New Scientist