Investigators continue to look for the source of a strain of Escherichia coli responsible for a severe outbreak of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and bloody diarrhea primarily centered in Germany but which has sickened individuals in other European countries.
As of June 7, Germany reported 689 cases of HUS, 18 of which were fatal, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Germany also reported 1,959 cases of enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) without HUS. Twelve other European countries reported a total of 33 HUS cases (one fatal) and 64 EHEC cases.
HUS is a complication of EHEC and is characterized by acute renal failure, hemolytic anemia, and thrombocytopenia. HUS mainly develops in children, and is the most common cause of acute renal failure in young children. The German outbreak is noteworthy in that it developed rapidly and involved an unusually high number of cases in adults, particularly women. In fact, 86% of cases occurred in individuals aged 18 years or older and 67% occurred in women.