Basic hygiene assists against food borne illness

By U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs
May 26, 2011

HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Although no cases have been reported in the U.S. military community, European Regional Medical Command has issued a news release with details of the illness and recommending servicemembers in Germany continue to practice basic hygiene to protect against a recent outbreak of food borne illness.

Those practices include washing hands before preparing food and eating, storing food at proper temperatures, cooking food to proper temperatures, washing fruits and vegetables prior to eating and not allowing cooked food to contact raw food or dirty utensils. 

A specific strain of the bacteria Escherichia coli, often referred to as EHEC, has been identified among the civilian population in northern Germany.  Consuming food or water that has been contaminated with these bacteria can cause bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps. 

People can become ill after consuming contaminated food that has not been properly prepared or cooked.  Generally, children less than 5 years of age, elderly people, and individuals with other illnesses have the highest risk for developing the more serious forms of the illness.

The source of the bacteria is uncertain; however, German health officials have implicated raw vegetables as a potential source.  Past outbreaks of these types of E. coli have involved several different food products. These include ground beef, vegetables, fruits, raw milk, and water.

If German health officials identify a specific food type as the source of this outbreak, Public Health Command Region-Europe will communicate the food safety risk through military-related news media and command channels.

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