Norwegian officials are trying to find the source of another 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.

Preliminary analyses show E. coli O26:H11 has been detected in all those infected. FHI is now conducting whole genome sequencing for confirmation.

An E. coli O157 outbreak was reported in June. That outbreak also affected six people but no-one developed serious illness. Two people fell ill in October and November 2022, while the remaining four became sick in February, March and May this year. They are between the ages of 14 and 49, and five are men.

Two HUS cases
In the E. coli O26 outbreak, infected people fell ill in July and none of them reported travel abroad. Four patients live in Trøndelag

Those affected range in age from less than 5 to 45 years old. Two of them have developed the serious condition hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS is a severe complication associated with E. coli infections that causes kidney failure.

Another E. coli-related HUS case has been reported but it is not yet clear if this person is also part of the E. coli O26 outbreak.

Both outbreaks are being investigated by FHI, municipal chief medical officers, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) and the Veterinary Institute. The Norwegian Veterinary Institute will analyze samples of foods that are suspected as possible sources of infection. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority helps obtain information from sick people and their relatives.

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

About E. coli infections
Anyone who has developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible food poisoning. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, tiredness, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor. 

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients. 

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

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