Escherichia coli has killed two children in recent weeks in France. These deaths underline a resurgence of serious cases linked to this bacterium among the youngest.
While E.coli bacteria are naturally present in the human digestive system, some strains can develop into serious and even fatal infections, often in the form of food poisoning. In total, 26 cases of serious infection with the E.coli bacterium have been identified since the beginning of February in France. In addition, “22 additional cases are under investigation” announced Saturday March 12 the public health agency France, an offshoot of the Ministry of Health. Two children have already died from the bacteria.
To stop the resurgence of serious forms, the authorities insist on the importance of risk prevention. But what do we really know about this bacterium? Why are children more vulnerable to it? The Midi Dispatch takes stock in four questions.
How is the bacterium transmitted?
It is through food that the bacterium is transmitted the most. According to ANSES, the foods most likely to transmit the bacterium during their consumption are “minced beef, unpasteurized dairy products and raw vegetables”. It is also possible to be infected by the bacterium during contact with an animal that is already a carrier and/or with its droppings. Finally, E.coli can also be transmitted from human to human, especially through unwashed hands after using the toilet.
What are the symptoms of infection?
The E.coli bacterium causes digestive disorders. Symptoms generally appear between “3 and 8 days after infection” according to the Pasteur Institute. Abdominal pain and diarrhea are the main signs of contamination. Depending on the individual, the bacteria can stop at mild diarrhea or worsen in hemorrhagic forms. Blood in the stool should raise alarm about the seriousness of the infection. Fever and vomiting may also be experienced. In the most extreme cases, the kidneys can be affected.
Why is it more dangerous in children?
It is in children that the serious or even fatal forms are mostly detected. In question, the hemolytic and uraemic form of the infection which can prove to be very dangerous for the youngest and create renal insufficiency which can lead to death, the body of the child being more fragile than an adult body.
What steps should you take to protect yourself and your children?
To avoid infection as much as possible, several habits must be adopted. It is recommended to scrupulously respect the hygiene measures. ANSES insists on the importance of “washing your hands well after going to the toilet, before and after meals, when handling raw meat and vegetables”. It is also necessary to wash the surfaces in contact with raw food and not to reuse a dish that has been in contact with them without having washed it beforehand.
As far as cooking meat is concerned, the beef must be cooked through to avoid any proliferation of the bacteria. Raw milk cheeses and raw milk are prohibited for young children. In addition, vegetables, fruits and aromatic herbs must be carefully washed and if possible peeled.