Norwegian health authorities were sounding the alarms on Friday over what they now call a “national outbreak” of illness caused by the E-coli bacteria. Even though only three children have been diagnosed so far, they come from three different townships in three different counties.
Two of the children are seriously ill with kidney ailments linked to E-coli infection and all were admitted to hospital this week. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (Folkehelseinstituttet) still wasn’t sure of the source of the bacteria on Friday after several days of testing.
Tests from two of the children indicated the same strain, “strengthening suspicions that this can be an outbreak with a common source,” said Dr Bjørn Iversen of the institute. He said it was too early to determine whether there are any links to an E-coli outbreak last year where nine children developed kidney trouble.
Health authorities have been carrying out a “sytematic collection” of information from the three children, their families and others to determine what, for example, they may have consumed in recent days, whether they’ve had contact with animals, what they’ve been served in day care centers.
Professor Per Eina Granum of the state veterinary college told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Friday that he doesn’t think the source was food this time. “Then we would have found the source of the infection already,” he said.
An outbreak in 2006, during which 17 persons fell ill and one died, was traced to meat. Granum said the bacteria identified this time has been found in many other countries that haven’t been able to trace the source. “That indicates it’s not from food,” he said, adding he thinks this strain is spread among people.
The three patients in the current outbreak are from Oslo, Akershus and Østfold. Symptoms of E-coli infection include fatigue, fever, irritability, stomach trouble and especially any blood in diarrhea. Children under age five are considered especially vulnerable and parents were urged to monitor their children’s health carefully.