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E. coli O157:H7 cases down in U.S. other E. colis are up

Thanks to Reuters and Lisa Baertlein or I would have not known that the United States has made headway fighting a deadly E. coli, but a lethal outbreak in Germany and a lack of progress against Salmonella show how much remains to be done to keep food safe, health officials said on Tuesday.

European scientists are scrambling to find the source of the E. coli outbreak in Germany that has infected more than 2,400 people and killed 23 of them.

The German outbreak is caused by the rare strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli known as STEC O104:H4. It appears to be the deadliest outbreak of E. coli ever seen, with a third of patients developing the severe complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which frequently leads to kidney failure and can result in death.

Public health officials in the United States focus on the deadly Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infection known as O157:H7, which is best known for causing the 1993 outbreak that killed four people who ate tainted hamburgers from Jack in the Box.

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The incidence of that infection fell by roughly half between 1997 and 2010, according to Vital Signs, an annual food safety report that summarizes data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet).

The report attributed the drop to improved slaughter methods, testing, better inspections and other efforts. Meat is often cooked, offering another layer of protection.

While incidence of U.S. O157:H7 infections fell in 2010, there was a nearly 58 percent rise in other Shiga-toxin producing E. coli infections, which scientists refer to as STEC non-O157. Officials began monitoring those infections in 2000.

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