In recent months, Finland's National Health and Welfare Institute (THL) has been notified of seven outbreaks of the E. coli O103 bacterium in different parts of the country, which have already caused two deaths.
According to the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), even though the investigation is still ongoing, everything indicates that the outbreak originated from pre-cut lettuce that the people affected consumed. The origin of this lettuce has not been determined yet.
The THL stated that the outbreaks began at the end of July and that there had been 57 cases between July 27 and August 24. 40 of the cases were grouped after the whole genome sequencing (WGS) indicated they could be caused by the same source.
Most of the 33 people interviewed affected by the current outbreak said their symptoms included diarrhea and more than a third of them had to be hospitalized. In addition, the majority reported that they had eaten out before becoming ill.
The Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto) and local food control authorities are tracking the source of the infection, based on the information provided in the interviews. An outbreak notification has also been sent to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) to see if other countries have reported related infections.