The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have issued a Rapid Outbreak Assessment for a multi-country outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infection associated with haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS).
To date 25 cases associated with the outbreak have been identified and most of those affected are young children. Of these, 19 have developed HUS and three have died. Most of the cases were reported in Romania in February and March, but a single case with epidemiological links to Romania has also been identified in Italy.
Twelve of the cases show evidence of STEC infection caused by serogroup O26, while the remaining 13 have been linked to the outbreak by the development of HUS, testing positive for serogroup O157, or by testing positive for STEC virulence genes.
Epidemiological evidence has linked the outbreak to a milk processing operation in Romania, which exported a fresh cheese product to Italy, Germany, Belgium and Spain. Several STEC strains have been isolated from dairy products produced by the implicated processor in Romania and from exported cheese in Italy.
The assessment states that the epidemiological and microbiological evidence is consistent with a multi-strain STEC outbreak from a single source and the processor has recalled company products in Romania and in Italy. Other countries have also recalled potentially contaminated products.
The full outbreak assessment can be found on the EFSA website here.