E.coli source may be food preferred by women: WHO expert

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The source of a deadly E.coli outbreak in Germany could be a type of food preferred by women, given that more females seem to have fallen victim, a World Health Organisation expert said Friday.

"It's probably something that women prefer more than men," said Andrea Ellis, an epidemiologist at the WHO's department of food safety.

"With any food-borne illness outbreak, depending on the food involved, that can change according to men versus women, or children versus adults," she noted, in response to a question on why more women than men appeared to be falling ill.

"It's just a matter of who is eating," she added.

Regional German health authorities have reported more than 2,000 cases of people falling ill with EHEC poisoning, with symptoms including stomach cramps, diarrhoea, fever and vomiting.

In some cases it can lead to bloody diarrhoea and potentially life-threatening conditions such as haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a kidney disease.

With no clarity on the source of the mysterious bacteria, the outbreak has led some countries such as Russia and Lebanon to ban vegetables from the European Union.

But Ellis reiterated that "the WHO does not recommend any kind of trade bans."

She also noted that it is well documented that E.coli could be passed from person to person.

"Person to person transmission can occur if there is insufficient hygiene," she noted.

"That's why the message of washing hands is something that we want to reinforce in these circumstances," she added.

© 2011 AFP

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