Concerned about Foreign Visitors to Farm

Vala Hafstað

A total of 16 children have been diagnosed with an E. coli infection in Iceland in recent weeks, RÚV reports. Four were diagnosed yesterday. The latest cases involve children aged 14 months to four years.

The outbreak has been traced to the farm Efstidalur II in Southwest Iceland, a popular tourist destination, where people can be among farm animals and receive refreshments as well. So far, epidemiological research suggests that the likeliest source of the infection is ice cream, served at the farm, most likely between June 10 and July 4. E. coli was detected in the stools of calves on the farm, after which measures were taken to prevent further spread of the bacteria.

Some of the infected children remain hospitalized. Yesterday, we reported on one of them, who was in serious condition.

CEO of the South Iceland Public Health Authority, Sigrún Guðmundsdóttir, points out that numerous foreign tourists visited the farm during these weeks. She tells RÚV that is a reason for concern.

“But a statement has been sent to companies in the tourist industry, asking them to try to contact the foreign guests who came there,” she explains.

Iceland has never before experienced an E. coli outbreak. A third of the employees on the farm Efstidalur II were tested for E. coli yesterday, yielding no positive results.

Mbl.is reports there is every indication that all 16 cases detected can be traced to the same farm. 

The Directorate of Health posts an update on the outbreak on its website daily. It urges people who visited the farm Efstidalur II from June 10-July 4 to visit a health clinic in case they experience diarrhea within ten days of the visit. A stool sample should then be tested for the bacteria. They add that in case the symptoms have passed, or if no symptoms are detected, there is no need to seek medical attention.

RÚV reports that all 16 children affected by the bacteria so far are Icelandic. Most of them are from the capital area. The Directorate of Health reports to the World Health Organization and to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control on a regular basis with updates on the outbreak. Guidelines regarding the outbreak have been sent to Safe Travel and to the Icelandic Travel Industry Association.

Several farms are operated in Iceland, where animals can be petted and where refreshments can be purchased. When asked by RÚV what preventive measures can be taken, Sigrún Guðmundsdóttir responds, “We can set stricter rules. Food should not be consumed in the area where animals are kept. One should wash hands after having been close to the animals or after having touched them. It is unavoidable that healthy animals can carry bacteria, capable of causing infection in people.”

“Cleanliness is the main issue. You can’t wash your hands too often,” she concludes.

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