Germans have been told to stay away from raw vegetables, fruits and milk. While raw tomatoes and salads are on the list of the most likely sources the virus was thought to be found on cucumbers imported from Spain.
So what’s this mysterious virus?
Ehec is more dangerous than a normal gastric flu because its bacteria enter the intestines and start dissolving them.
It enters the blood and begins dissolving the kidneys which can lead to kidney failure and death in the worst case. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, nausea and sometimes fever (source: spiegelonline.de).
Because it’s hard to treat, Ehec is causing similar fears as the swine flu did in 2010.
It’s so hard to treat because the bacteria are resistant to most antibiotics. And the pills that can help, can also help the Ehec bacteria pump a kind of poison into the body (source: spiegelonline.de).
Contagious disease specialists from the German Robert Koch institute have declared Ehec an epidemic.
Virologist, Alexander Kekule, from the University in Halle told the German newspaper “Tagesspiegel” that the outbreak of Ehec is “odd and alarming”. Usually these kinds of infections are really rare, he says (source: spiegelonline.de).
He also thinks that it can’t be ruled out that Ehec was let loose deliberately as a biological attack.
There’s more to come
In the hospitals in Northern Germany doctors say that they expect to lose more patients over the next few days (source: spiegelonline.de).
In the meantime Ehec cases have been reported from the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands too. At this point no one knows how fast and how far this virus will spread.
If you’re worried about the virus there are a few simple steps you can take to stay safe: until things become a bit clearer, good hygiene considerably reduces the risk of getting Ehec (source: spiegelonline.de).
That means: regularly wash hands, give cutlery and dishes a thorough clean and probably stay away from raw vegetables for a while.
PS: In several comments users have pointed out that Ehec is not actually a virus, but a strain of Ecoli bacteria.
You might also be interested in reading my other blog post “Do I have EHEC?”