Leading article: We must be prepared for a new world of infection

Share
Related Topics

The German outbreak of E.coli, caused by a rare and extremely virulent strain of the bug, is worrying on at least three counts.

First it has claimed the lives of 18 people and caused serious illness in 1,823 others, according to the World Health Organisation. That reminds us that bacteria are constantly mutating, new infections are just around the corner, and we are far from winning the fight against infectious disease in Europe. We must be vigilant and prepared, by stepping up monitoring and detection of disease and ensuring speedy and appropriate treatment for the victims in order to protect populations against the threat.

Second, the speed with which victims appeared in other countries – 12 had reported cases by yesterday from across Europe and including the US – reminds us that we live in a globalised world in which international travel is commonplace, bringing with it the threat of international transmission of infections. Mercifully there is no sign, so far, that the E.coli strain responsible for the outbreak in Germany has spread beyond its borders. But there is no possibility in the 21st century of countries bringing down the shutters and keeping bugs out.

Third, the German experience shows that it is necessary to act swiftly to save lives but not precipitately in a way that damages others. German chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday defended state officials in Hamburg, the centre of the outbreak, who initially warned Spanish cucumbers were the suspected source, before further tests revealed they carried the wrong strain of E.coli. Ms Merkel acknowledged the damage done to Spanish farmers by the announcement but insisted German authorities had a responsibility to "keep citizens informed in all phases" of their investigations.

Russia on the other hand has banned imports of vegetables from the entire European Union, in a move widely condemned as disproportionate. This is not an occasion for playing politics. The focus must be at all times on protecting lives.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Learning & Development Manager - North London - £53,000

£45000 - £53000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Learning & Develo...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - Magazines

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's largest regional newspaper pub...

Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Publishing

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant - Oxford

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: As a successful and growing Security Installat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A 'match' on Tinder  

Tinder may have inadvertently hit its self-destruct button by charging older users more

Nash Riggins
A Yorkshire Terrier waits to be judged during the Toy and Utility day of the Crufts dog show at the NEC in Birmingham  

There are no winners at Crufts. Dogs deserve better than to suffer and die for a 'beauty' pageant

Mimi Bekhechi
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn