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Bull World Health Organ. 1998;76(3):245-55.

Prevention and control of enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) infections: memorandum from a WHO meeting. WHO Consultation on Prevention and Control of Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) Infections.

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World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.


Escherichia coli is a commonly occurring inhabitant of the intestine of humans and other animals, but there are several pathogenic types of E. coli which cause a variety of human diseases. One of these pathogenic types, E. coli O157:H7, belongs to the group of enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) which produce potent toxins and cause a particularly severe form of disease, haemorrhagic colitis (HC). About 10% of patients with HC can go on to develop haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening complication of E. coli O157:H7 infection that is characterized by acute renal failure, haemolytic anaemia, and thrombocytopenia. These sequelae are particularly serious in young children and older people. On average, 2-7% of patients with HUS die, but in some outbreaks among the elderly the mortality rate has been as high as 50%. This Memorandum reviews the growing importance of E. coli O157:H7 as a foodborne pathogen and reports on the issues of surveillance, outbreak investigation, and control strategies with respect to EHEC infections that were discussed at the WHO Consultation on Prevention and Control of EHEC Infections, held in Geneva on 28 April to 1 May 1997. Recommended measures for prevention and control include the following: use of potable water in food production; presentation of clean animals at slaughter; improved hygiene throughout the slaughter process; appropriate use of food processing measures; thorough cooking of foods; and the education of food handlers, abattoir workers, and farm workers on the principles and application of food hygiene.

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