Elusive Explanations for an E. Coli Outbreak

 

The hit-and-miss (有時打中有時打不中的) struggle of German health authorities to identify the contaminated food behind one of the deadliest E. coli (大腸桿菌) outbreaks in recent years underscores the difficulties of following a pathogen (病原體) through the complex food supply chain, as well as deficiencies in even the most modern health systems in diagnosing this deadly illness.

 

After mistakenly suggesting that Spanish cucumbers (黃瓜) were the likely culprit (罪魁禍首) several days ago, German authorities focused Sunday on bean sprouts (豆芽) from a German farm, only to report on Monday that the first 23 of 40 samples from that farm had tested negative for E. coli. The results from the remaining samples had yet to come back. That does not entirely eliminate the farm as the outbreak’s origin, since (因為) even one positive test is sufficient to make the connection.

 

But determining the origins of an outbreak that has killed 22 and left 600 people in intensive care presents a difficult mystery to unravel (揭開), with vital clues disappearing day by day as contaminated food is thrown away and farm and factory equipment is cleaned. Patients — whose illnesses first alerted health authorities to the outbreak — may have only cloudy memories of the meal that landed them in the hospital. Did the sandwich last month in Hamburg contain sprouts, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers — or all four?

 

 

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