Enterohaemorrahgic Ecoli in Radish Sprouts

Enterohaemorrahgic E. coli infection – Japan.

FSNET.  August 11, 1996.


Associated Press Writer


TOKYO (AP) — Dozens of people were sickened in a new food poisoning outbreak Saturday, and the death of an elderly woman raised the death toll from Japan’s E. coli bacteria epidemic to nine.


The fresh outbreak inHiroshima affected 42 people attending the Japan Esperanto Congress. They complained of vomiting and diarrhea, Kyodo News reported. Thirteen of them were hospitalized.


Local officials in Hiroshima said the new cases were not caused by the O157 strain of E. coli bacteria that has sickened 9,000 people nationwide, though they did not specify what else might have prompted the outbreak, according to the Kyodo report.


The E. coli epidemic has sickened mostly the very young and the old. Of the nine deaths, five have been children.


An 80-year-old woman died Saturday in a hospital in Yamagata, about 240 miles northeast of Tokyo, where she had been treated since July 23.


The woman died of kidney and lung complications stemming from the infection, said Kiyoaki Koseki, a spokesman for Yamagata region’s government. Infection typically causes bloody diarrhea and kidney failure.


But the woman’s death-and that of a 1-year-old girl outside Tokyo on Friday-have confounded officials.


Authorities suspect tainted radish sprouts served in school lunches and a retirement home are to blame for the epidemic. But neither of the latest victims ate at places where the sprouts are believed to have been served, and no one in their families was infected.


The Health and Welfare Ministry said that despite the new deaths, the outbreak was leveling off, with only several new cases reported each day recently-compared with daily increases of more than 100 two weeks ago.


Still, many Japanese are angered by what they say has been the sluggish government response. On Saturday, a man angered by the epidemic forced his way into the city hall in Sakai, 300 miles west of Tokyo, and attacked a mayoral aide.


“How are you going to take responsibility for the O157 outbreak,” the man screamed before he punched and kicked the aide, who was taken to the hospital with head and back injuries, police said. The attacker fled.


School officials in the city of Sakai, hardest hit by the food poisoning epidemic, decided Saturday to suspend people.


The officials said the woman was taken to hospital on July 23 and, like others who have died, appeared to be recovering when her condition suddenly deteriorated several days ago.


The O-157 strain of the E. coli bacteria causes severe diarrohea, vomiting and fevers that often lead to liver complications. It is highly contagious.


On Friday, a 21-month-old girl, the youngest fatality of the outbreak, died in Chiba near Tokyo.


The city of Sakai in western Japan has been the hardest hit area, with 6,500 patients, mostly schoolchildren, affected by the disease.


Hours before the woman’s death on Saturday, the government announced there was growing evidence that radish sprouts from one producer might be responsible for the worst outbreak.


A Health and Welfare Ministry spokesman said sprouts from the same farm had been distributed to five establishments where people had died in the past month.


These were a primary school in Sakai, a home for the elderly in Habikino in the same region, a hospital and a nursery school in Osaka, and a company restaurant in Kyoto, near Osaka.


The deaths in the past two days of the child in Chiba and the elderly woman in Obanazawa have raised fears that the epidemic might be spreading further afield.


“There are growing signs that the epidemic is not just a problem in Sakai and neighbouring areas,” said Hiroshi Nakahoso, who runs a hospital near Tokyo.


“Tokyo may be hit by the outbreak,” he added.


Health authorities said more than 400 people in the Tokyo area were infected with the germ.


The government has begun placing advertisements in major newspapers urging people to heat food properly and to wash their hands and kitchen utensils “thoroughly and carefully.”



New death adds more mystery to Japan epidemic

By Brian Williams

TOKYO, Aug 10/96

(Reuter) – Japan’s food poisoning epidemic claimed its ninth victim on Saturday when an elderly woman died of the infection far away from the main outbreak area.


The latest death from the O-157 microbe raised new questions about the cause of the poisoning just as authorities felt they were homing in on a common salad garnish called radish sprouts as the carrier responsible for the summer outbreak.


Health officials said the new victim, an 80-year-old woman, died of liver failure in the town of Obanazawa, about 220 miles (350 km) north of Tokyo.