FRANCE – The French national public health agency, Santé publique France, and a lab associated with the National Reference Center for E. coli, Shigella and Salmonella at Institut Pasteur are investigating an increase in hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and serious E. coli infections that have been reported since the beginning of February 2022.

HUS is a type of kidney failure that can result in lifelong, serious health problems and death. About five regions in France have reported 13 cases of HUS, with 5 cases in New Aquitaine, Hauts-de-France and Ile-de-France reporting 3 cases each and Brittany and Pays de la Loire having one case. No information has been revealed as yet about the types of E. coli involved.

The sick children, from 1 to 15 years old, fell ill between Jan. 18 and Feb. 11. So far, the break out has resulted in the death of one infant with the source of infection yet to be identified.

Santé publique France, the Directorate General for Food (DGAL), Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Repression of Fraud (DGCCRF), and Directorate General for Health are also analyzing 31 cases of pediatric HUS reported in 2022 to see if there is a link between them.

Epidemiological work includes surveying parents on the risk exposures of their children, such as the foods consumed, as reported by Food Safety News.

Microbiological examinations are ongoing to identify the bacterial strain that infected each child to determine if they have similar characteristics and may have come from the same source.

In France, Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC) surveillance is based on HUS in children younger than 15, so only catches the most severe cases. According to data published by Santé publique France, there were 167 HUS cases in the country in 2020 compared to 168 in 2019.

E.coli infections

The symptoms of Escherichia coli (E. coli) infections include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody but often varies for each person. Some patients may also have a fever.

Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.

Liked this article? Subscribe to Food Safety Africa News, our regular email newsletters with the latest news insights from Africa and the World’s food safety, quality and compliance. SUBSCRIBE HERE