On Tuesday, Swedish health authorities confirmed that a Swedish man with no connections to Germany had been infected with the virulent enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) bacteria.
The patient, a middle-aged man from the south of Sweden, “has not been to Germany and there is no obvious link to Germany. He’s not been abroad at all and he has not been close to anyone who has been to Germany or has been sick related to the German cases,” doctor Karin Tegmark Wisell of the Swedish
Institute for Communicable Disease Control (Smittskyddsinstitutet) told AFP.
Previously, all reported cases of EHEC poisoning in Sweden had been in people who had recently traveled to Germany or had family who had done so.
Prior to the announcement of the new case, Sweden’s National Food Administration (Livsmedelsverket) had issued recommendations for Swedes to avoid eating raw sprouts.
While recall efforts were underway prior to reports of the infection, the new reported EHEC case has grocers scrambling to get sprouts off the shelves.
“After the Food Administration announced its recommendations to not eat raw sprouts, we’ve recalled what he have in our offerings. We’re following things very closely,” Staffan Ekengren, a spokesperson for the Ica grocery chain, told Sveriges Radio (SR).
Other large grocery chains such as Coop and Axfood, which runs Willy’s, Hemköp, and Prisextra stores, has stopped selling sprouts, in their stores.
Health authorities are being cautious about confirming the source of the infection is Swedish, even if the man who was taken ill claims to have no ties to Germany or France, said Tegmark Wisell.
“He may have had contact with someone indirectly, without being aware of it because it can also spread through person-to-person contact,” she told the TT news agency.
As officials continue efforts to find the EHEC source, they are hoping to discover that it originated abroad.
“Otherwise we can expect more cases. That’s what we’ll discover eventually. If you get bloody diarrhea and severe abdominal pains, you should seek medical treatment,” she said.
She emphasised the importance of proper hygiene habits following visits to the toilet as well as ensuring that food producers follow hygiene guidelines.
Minister for Health and Social Affairs Goeran Hägglund told TT on Tuesday that Swedish health services were prepared for whatever may happen.
“What happened previously in Germany and France has made Swedish health services more prepared than we otherwise would have been,” he said.
An outbreak of killer E. coli blamed on organic vegetable sprouts grown in northern Germany, has killed 48 people, German health authorities said.
All the fatalities were in Germany, except for a woman in Sweden who died after being infected in Germany.