Public health hazards in Poland posed by foodstuffs contaminated with E.Coli O104:H4 bacterium from the recent European out break
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Chief Sanitary Inspectorate, Warsaw, Poland
Institute of Haematology and Transfusion Medicine, Warsaw, Poland
Independent Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Institute of Rural Health, Lublin, Poland
Department of Public Health, University of Information Technology and Management, Rzeszow, Poland
Independent Laboratory of Streptomyces and Fungi Imperfecti, National Institute of Public Health – National Institute of Hygiene, Warsaw, Poland
Department of Health Promotion, Food and Nutrition, Institute of Rural Health, Lublin, Poland
Corresponding author
Lucyna Kapka-Skrzypczak   

Independent Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Institute of Rural Health, Lublin, Poland
Ann Agric Environ Med. 2012;19(1):3-10
Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) are the most virulent diarrhoeagenic E. coli known to date. They can spread with alarming ease via the food chain, as recently demonstrated by the large outbreak of STEC O104:H4 borne by sprouted seeds in 2011, clustered in northern Germany, and subsequently affecting other countries. Indeed, a significant number of infections to verocytotoxin producing Escherichia coli O104:H4 have been reported from the WHO European Region resulting in many cases of bloody diarrhoea and haemolytic uraemic syndrome in Germany, 15 other European countries and North America. Eventually, the European Food Standards Agency, (EFSA), identified the likely source to a single consignment of fenugreek seeds from an Egyptian exporter as being linked to the two outbreaks in Germany and France. The situation was closely monitored by the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate public health authority in Poland where actions undertaken ensured that the public was well informed about the dangers of STEC contamination of food, how to avoid infection, and what to do if infected. Tracing the fenugreek distributors also enabled the identification of suspected batches and their isolation. As a result, there were very few reported cases of STEC infection in Poland. Effective control over such outbreaks is therefore a vital public health task. This should include early detection and rapid identification of the contagion mode, followed by removing the foodstuff(s) from the market, providing consumer advice, and preventing secondary spreading. As a mitigation measure, screening/monitoring those involved in food handling is also warranted to exclude carriers who can be asymptomatic.
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