Travelers to Europe and the U.K. are being warned by the U.S. and Canadian governments of a fatal outbreak of hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) which appears to have originated in northern Germany but has to date also affected people in Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The organism causing the outbreak is a strain of E. coli, which is suspected to have been transmitted through raw vegetables, but which can also be passed along from person to person. The World Health Organization has reported that at least 1500 people have been affected by the strain of E. coli and at least 18 have died as of this posting, June 3, 2011.
According to microbiologists in the U.K., the outbreak is on course to be the “biggest ever.” The bacterium is also reported to have struck two Americans who recently travelled to Hamburg.
The WHO says the bacterium is a new strain that is more toxic and infectious than usual varieties, is resistant to antibiotics, and has an eight-day incubation period which means the outbreak may not yet have reached its peak.
Both Canadian and U.S. health authorities are warning any of their citizens who have travelled to northern Europe recently, or are planning to do so, to see their doctor immediately if they experience bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, tiredness or fever.
If you are still in Germany, or planning on travelling anywhere to northern Europe, the German authorities are advising against eating raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce for the time being.
However, the possibility of HUS being transmitted from person to person expands the potential threat of this disease outbreak, and you need to keep updated on the transmission of this disease throughout Europe over at least the next few weeks.
If you become ill with any of these symptoms while in Europe, seek medical help immediately. If you have travel insurance with emergency medical benefits, you will be covered, so long as you meet all other requirements for coverage under your policy.
If you are planning to travel to Europe or the U.K. this summer, travel insurance with medical benefits will add a layer of protection to your trip but stay tuned to government advisories about such travel. The easiest way for you to check out those advisories is to click on them on the left side of our homepage. If, at any time a government issues a warning for you to avoid travel to any specific area, your travel insurance coverage may be affected, so pay attention and call your travel insurer should such a warning be issued.