Norwegian officials are investigating an E. coli outbreak that has affected half a dozen people.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) said six people, living in different parts of the country, are sick. E. coli O157:H7 with the same genetic profile has been detected in all patients.

Two people fell ill in October and November 2022, while the remaining four became sick in February, March and May this year. No-one has developed serious illness. They are between the ages of 14 and 49, and five are men.

Two patients live in Rogaland, while Viken, Trøndelag, Vestland, and Oslo all have one case each.

Mild illnesses reported over time
The outbreak is being investigated by FHI, municipal chief medical officers, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) and the Veterinary Institute.

“We have good procedures for following up cases with E. coli infection, and none of the people in this outbreak have developed the serious complication hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS),” said Hilde Marie Lund, from FHI.

The source of infection has not been established but officials know people have been diagnosed in five counties at various times over a long period.

“We, therefore, assume that they are infected through a food product that is distributed throughout the country and has a relatively long shelf life. Interviews of the people are ongoing to determine whether they may have a common source of infection,” said Lund.

“We cannot say whether this is a limited outbreak or whether there may be new cases. Investigative work can be complicated and take time, and in many cases we are unable to find the source of infection or to clarify whether it is a common source.”

The Norwegian Veterinary Institute will analyze samples of foods that are suspected as possible sources of infection.

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority is helping obtain information from the sick people and their relatives.

“Interviews are conducted about what the people have eaten and what they have been in contact with. It may also be appropriate to take samples of food and food leftovers and food packaging, in order to, if possible, find the source of infection,” said Turid Berglund, from Mattilsynet.

Norway reported 518 E. coli cases in 2022 and one outbreak affecting seven people.

Austrian incident
Meanwhile, several children have fallen ill with E. coli infections in a state of Austria beginning in late May.

In recent weeks, 11 children and young people, mostly from three childcare facilities in the Frastanz area, have contracted infections caused by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). The serotype was not mentioned by officials.

At least two children developed HUS and another four were hospitalized, said officials in the province of Vorarlberg.

At the three childcare facilities, hygiene visits were undertaken with recommendations for cleaning and disinfection made. Samples of food sent for analysis were all negative. Thirteen swab samples were taken from work surfaces in the kitchen area plus nine food samples from affected childcare facilities and the central kitchen.

Another 15 samples from the kitchen were sent to the Austrian Food Safety Agency (AGES) reference laboratory to be analyzed. These were also negative. Officials said an investigation into the cause of illnesses was ongoing with three children still in hospital. 

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