An E. coli O157 outbreak, dating back to December and believed to be linked to minced — or ground — meat has taken a life in Germany.

The outbreak has sickened about 30 people since it began. The cause is Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157 with the onset date for the most recent confirmed case being April 13.

Germanymap_406x250Molecular typing shows close relationship among the isolates from 14 cases that have been confirmed for E. coli O157. A 15th case is suspected. That probable case had a positive stool sample, but the culturing was not successful. The confirmed cases involve residents of Berlin and Northwest Germany. The cases are split between males and females and ages range from 1 to 36.

Among the confirmed cases, 13 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome or HUS, including one German who died. All individuals who had no pre-existing conditions required intensive care in hospitals.

This current O157 strain in German has not been detected in any other European countries. The University of Munster and the Robert Koch Institute are both involved in the outbreak investigation. The ill people who’ve responded say minced meat, including both beef and pork mixed, Vienna style hot dog sausages and commercially available yogerts and puddings were among their common foods lists.

Minced meats came up more frequently among the sick people than it did in questionnaires filled out by people in the control group, who did not get sick.

“Based on the investigations to date, we suspect packaged meat — beef and pork mixed — sold at one or several supermarket chains, as the most like source,” investigators said. They cannot yet rule out Vienna sausages, but consider them to be less plausible. Sausages would explain fewer cases and also the product is typically heated before its eaten.

The outbreak is the largest of this strain since 2002 and because it has lasted four months it is still considered active and additional cases may occur. In several previous sorbitol-fermenting STEC O157 outbreaks, Germany was not able to find the source “despite efforts of health and food safety authorities.”

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)