Resigned Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan and Director-General of the Health Ministry Walid Ammar confirmed on Saturday that there are no E. coli cases in Lebanon.
Ammar told Voice of Lebanon radio station that Lebanon has an “active system that detects epidemics, and doctors always report any case they receive.”
This comes after al-Liwaa daily reported that a citizen was infected with E. coli after eating some vegetables like cucumber, and is now being “treated at one of Beirut’s hospitals.”
Similarly Hassan had told al-Akhbar newspaper in remarks published Saturday that no E. coli case have been detected in Lebanon.
“These are only rumors ” Hajj Hassan said.
Lebanon imposed a ban on Friday on all vegetable imports from the European Union in response to the outbreak of E. coli poisoning, Hajj Hassan told AFP
The E. coli outbreak that has sickened more than 1,800 people in Europe. At least 18 people have died.
CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton answered some questions about E. coli:
Why is this string of E. coli of particular concern?
Dr. Ashton: E. coli are ubiquitous, we’re familiar with it. What we’re not familiar with is the part of the bacteria that acts like a glue. They all have toxins, and they release that toxin when they’re inside of our body sometimes. But this one has a glue that’s a little distinctive from other types of E. coli, and it adheres to the inside of the intestine, sits there, so it continues to release that toxin, and is making people sick.
How is e-coli spread?
Dr. Ashton: It’s not a pleasant thought. You have to ingest it. It comes usually from fecal matter, and contaminated food is the most likely source. This is not an airborne bacteria. It usually comes on food that’s not sterilely prepared or that is contaminated with fecal matter, usually from animals. So you have to put it in your mouth to ingest it for it to get into your intestine.
Four people are sick in the United States. A lot of people are wondering, “Should I be concerned as well?”
Dr. Ashton: I think there is no cause for widespread panic in this country at this point. Per the CDC, there are close to 200,000 cases – probably an underestimate – of reported E. coli cases a year. In Europe, they have seen the amount of deaths we normally see per year in this country. We’re watching it closely here. Any time a bacteria or a virus presents itself in a new way, medically and scientifically, we’ll keep an eye on it. Again, here, it’s appearing to be starting from scratch. All of the people here [who fell ill] appear to have been from Germany.
If you have friends in Germany, how concerned should you be for them or yourself?
Dr. Ashton: You don’t need to worry about yourself, unless they are having an illness, and then hand washing applies. You want to watch them because there could be an incubation period of one to ten days after they have ingested this bacteria if they will develop symptoms.
What are the symptoms of E. coli?
Dr. Ashton: Basic gastrointestinal symptoms, diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, vomiting. The very young and old are most susceptible. In Europe, women and adult women are really becoming sick with this more than the old and young.
If you find yourself having these symptoms, what should you do?
Dr. Ashton: Important to stay well-hydrated. That holds true for any gastrointestinal illness. You want to replace the fluid you’re losing with water. You want to avoid anti-diarrheal medications. And at this point, avoid treatment with antibiotics. If you are feeling dehydrated, you’re not able to urinate, or you have any chronic medical condition, you have been exposed to foods from Europe or Germany, you want to talk to your doctor.