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E.coli bacteria: two children dead in one month, here are the prevention instructions to adopt

The number of cases of serious contamination with E.coli bacteria has been increasing since the beginning of the year. (©monregard / Adobe Stock)

This is the second child death in a month linked to the bacterium Escherichia coli. In a press release issued this Saturday March 12, 2022, Public Health France warns: “as of March 11, 2022, 26 cases of hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) or serious infection, linked to E. coli bacteria with similar characteristics, have been identified, ”explains the organization.

The sick children, aged 1 to 15 years with a median age of 8 years, presented symptoms between 01/18/2022 and 02/23/2022. Two children died.

Public Health France

26 cases in 9 regions of France

These 26 cases of “SHU or serious infection, linked to E. coli bacteria”, for the moment detected, have been identified in nine regions of Francedetail the health authorities:

  • New Aquitaine (6 cases)
  • Hauts-de-France (5 cases)
  • Ile-de-France (4 cases)
  • Pays de la Loire (4 cases)
  • Brittany (3 cases)
  • Burgundy-Franche-Comté (1 case)
  • Great East (1 case)
  • Provence-Alpes-Côte-D’azur (1 case)
  • Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (1 case)

Furthermore, 22 additional cases are under investigationadds Public Health France. As of February 24, 13 cases of HUS have been identified.

A “rare” but “serious” disease

Faced with the increase in the number of serious cases of haemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) in children, investigations have been ongoing since the first reports on January 1, 2022, increasing since February.

The hemolytic and uremic syndrome (HUS) is a disease most often of food origin, “rare in France but potentially serious at the extreme ages of life”, explains the Ministry of Health on its site. In children, this syndrome is “most often caused by an infection with a bacterium belonging to the E. coli family”specify the health authorities.

[Le SHU] is the leading cause of acute kidney failure in children under three years of age. In the context of hemolytic uremic syndrome in children, two categories of food are particularly involved: minced meat and products made from raw milk.

Ministry of Health

Each year, there are approximately 160 children with HUS in France.

How to detect HUS

To monitor this infectious disease most often of food origin, Public Health France has implemented a surveillance system since 1996.

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To quickly identify this infection, the authorities recall that “the latter manifests within 3-4 days after contamination (10 days maximum) by diarrhea often accompanied by blood, abdominal pain and sometimes vomiting which can progress, after about a week, to a severe form of the infection (HUS) in about 10% of children”.

The risk of developing HUS is higher at the extreme ages of life, especially in young children who then show signs of great fatigue, pallor, a decrease in the volume of urine, which becomes darker, and sometimes convulsions.

Public Health France

In the event of symptoms of this kind, a doctor should be consulted immediately, for possible treatment at the hospital which may require blood transfusions and/or dialysis.

A common origin not yet detected

The investigations currently being carried out aim to “identify a possible source of common contamination and to put in place the appropriate measures (for example withdrawal-recalls of incriminated products)”. Common source of contamination which has not yet been detected, note the health authorities.

At this stage, the epidemiological investigation has not made it possible to incriminate a particular source of contamination.

Actions to prevent food risks to observe

Also, in this context, the health authorities are renewing the general recommendations of prevention of food risks, especially for children under 16. The Ministry recalls that “the E. coli responsible for HUS are present in the intestines of many ruminant animals (cows, calves, goats, sheep, deer, etc.) and are eliminated by the excrement which can then contaminate the environment (water , manure, soil) and food. These bacteria tolerate cold well (survival in a refrigerator or freezer), but are destroyed by cooking”.

To avoid transmitting the bacteriaespecially in children under 16 and the elderly, several “simple gestures” can be performed:

  • Systematic hand washing before preparing meals;
  • Meat, and especially minced beef, but also minced meat preparations, must be well cooked through (and not pink through the core);
  • raw milk, cheeses made from raw milk and dairy products made from raw milk should not be consumed by children under 5 years of age; for them, it is better to prefer cooked pressed cheeses (Emmental, Comté, Gruyère, Beaufort, etc.), processed cheese spreads and pasteurized milk cheeses;
  • flour-based preparations (pizza/cookie dough/cake/pie, etc.) should not be eaten raw or undercooked;
  • vegetables, salad, fruit and aromatic herbs, in particular those which are going to be eaten raw, must be carefully washed before consumption, after peeling if necessary. ;
  • raw foods should be kept separate from cooked or ready-to-eat foods;
  • cooked meals and leftover food must be quickly put in the refrigerator and sufficiently reheated and consumed quickly;
  • kitchen utensils (especially when they have previously been in contact with raw food), as well as work surfaces, must be thoroughly washed;
  • children should not drink untreated water (well water, torrent, etc.) and avoid swallowing it when swimming (lake, pond, etc.);
  • avoid contact of very young children (under 5 years old) with cows, calves, sheep, goats, deer, etc., and their environment; in case of contact with these animals, hand washing must be systematic.

The health authorities are continuing their investigations to identify the source of this contamination and “put in place the appropriate health measures as quickly as possible to avoid the occurrence of new cases”.

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