Drifting Away: A Sailing Story

E coli source eludes scientists, new strain continues to kill

The story of the week has to be the e coli epidemic that began in Germany. I noticed news out of Germany over a week ago that reported people being hospitalized in an e coli scare. According to FamilyDoctor.org, e coli bacteria "cause severe cramps and diarrhea. E. coli is a leading cause of bloody diarrhea. The symptoms are worse in children and older people, and especially in people who have another illness." The Organic Trade Association says, "E. coli (Escherichia coli) are bacteria that normally live in the intestines of animals, including humans. In fact, the presence of E. coli and other kinds of bacteria within our intestines is necessary to help the human body develop properly and to remain healthy. There are approximately 100 strains of E. coli, most of which are beneficial." It typically occurs when meat is undercooked or raw vegetables containing the bacteria are consumed that have not been washed well and typically it can be handled with an antibiotic and goes away in a few days.

This e coli strain is different. It kills. Fast.

In Germany, as people who came down with it failed in health, they were quickly hospitalized. Then more were hospitalized. Then they started dying. They died quickly, with kidney failure. The doctors started to get scared and a panic was born.

May 23:  "Potentially fatal strain of e-coli spreading in Germany"
Two victims of a potentially fatal strain of e-coli have been placed on artificial respiration machines, a Frankfurt hospital said Monday, while hospitals across Germany were reporting a surge in infections."

Then the next day, May 24, "Three people with E.coli infection die in Germany" German authorities have appealed for calm following the deaths of three people infected with a deadly strain of the E.coli bacterium."

That didn't take long...appeals for calm amidst a deadly strain of disease they can't find the source of. Food roulette. Every uncooked thing you put in your mouth could be deadly. No wonder they appealed for calm. On May 31st CNN asked "How serious is Germany's e coli outbreak? By then, 16 people had died.

As of today, 10 countries are affected, "Scientists are working to find out more about the bug behind the serious food poisoning, which has now killed 17 people in Germany and one in Sweden. Their tests so far show that the illness looks like a new disease. More than 1,500 people in 10 countries have been hit by the E. coli bug, including seven people in the UK," reports the BBC.

The news worsened over the last few days, revealing that kidneys failed quickly after contracting it, and that it is a new strain. Time Magazine reports simply that the "e coli vegetable scare hits Europe". "As scientists scramble to find the source of an E. coli outbreak linked to raw vegetables that has killed 18 in Europe and sickened nearly 2,000, consumers are swearing off lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes just in case. Schools have pulled raw vegetables from menus, piles of cucumbers sit untouched on shop shelves, and farmers say they're losing millions. "Cook it or don't eat it," Hamburg kidney specialist Rolf Stahl told reporters at a press conference about the epidemic on Friday."

Germany reports 199 new cases in two days, and fear grips hospitals. "At least 18 people have died and 1,823 cases have been reported, according to the World Health Organization in Geneva. The number of reported cases is based on hospital records, and the actual number of infections may be 10 or more times higher, said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. The strain circulating in Germany and nine other European countries produces a toxin not usually seen in E. coli that can damage the kidneys and other organs. Germany alone has reported 520 cases of the kidney ailment" Bloomberg reports today.

Surrounding nations began issuing warnings, both cooking warnings and travel warnings. Then more people started getting sick. Farmers began dumping crops, as seen in this Reuters photo below:
A farmer throws out a cucumber crop after it was impossible to sell it in El Ejido, near Almeria in southeastern Spain6/1/11
Francisco Bonilla / Reuters
The source of the outbreak could not be found. Was it cucumbers? Tomatoes? And then the real panic began. It is "an entirely new super-toxic E. coli strain," according to BGI-Shenzhen, a DNA sequencing center in China."

And we end up today with another superlative. I mention frequently that the weather and the world economy and finances often cause new superlatives each week or each day. "Deadliest tornado on record", "Historic snowfall, "Epic flooding." Reporters are running out of words to describe the ratcheting -up of events that continually surpass known and expected measurements. Now this:  "E. coli that has sickened thousands in Europe has become the deadliest outbreak of the bacteria on record as a rare strain is causing kidney failure in unprecedented numbers, U.S. health officials said." Deadliest. On record. Wall Street Journal says "The outbreak is the deadliest in modern history to involve E. coli,"

The bible says that in the Tribulation we will have pestilences. Of that Luke 21:11 verse, John MacArthur says, [excerpted] "over the centuries civilizations have endured smallpox epidemics, viral hemorrhagic plagues, Bubonic plagues, the Black Death in "England, Ireland, Scotland, Portugal, Russia...just massacring people everywhere, whole villages, whole cities, people dying by the hundreds of thousands all across Europe. ... Bubonic plagues in Iceland, Europe, Moscow. ... From 1850 to 1900 there was a pandemic of Bubonic plagues in China that killed millions and millions of people. Today we’re afraid of the Czar’s virus, the bird flu, staph infection, and we realize that bacteria are morphing around some of the antibiotics that have been dealing with them in the past. And the whole world is put on notice that we’re all susceptible to all of this."

In the past three years we had a bird flu pandemic, Gulf Oil spill poisoning fears, radiation fears, and now the e coli plague hitting Europe. Scientists have not been able as yet to find the source, and it has been weeks already since the e coli disease began in Germany in early May. Farers are incurring temendous losses. hospitals are filling. The news reports use words like "fear", "scare", and "superbug".  I want you to really see how unexpected and how sudden the bible verses will come true. When the church is gone, pestilences will crop up from anywhere, anytime, all the time. We are completely vulnerable! That is the point of these warnings. We must rely on Jesus and Jesus alone. Nothing man builds will remain standing at the end. It all comes down. Nothing man learns will be proved of worth at the end. It will all become a vapor, and poof, what we thought was solid knowledge will be gone. Only Jesus matters, only Jesus counts. Man's strengths are actually his failings. Today an earthworm plague, a suddenly erupting volcano at Mexico City, a killer e coli outbreak in Germany whose source eludes scientists, a deadly tornado in Springfield Mass... what next? I don't know but what I do know is that there will be something and I also know that it will happen soon. Birth pangs are like that, relentless, coming faster and faster.

Are people by now feeling unbalanced, like nothing can be predicted any more? Good. That's Jesus telling us HE is the rock. HE is the refuge. Turn to Him and you will not fear. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18) for "He himself is our peace." (Ephesians 2:14a)


  1. Something else about this E. Coli out break caught my attention. I read in one article that scientists are surprised that not that many children are affected. I think God is protecting our innocent.

  2. Anonymous, that is very interesting, because as the disease normally goes, e coli affects children and the elderly worse than other demographic populations. Thank you for pointing that out.

  3. Amen, Jesus is the rock we must stand on. It sure does look like we are headed for some trying times ahead. Earthquakes, tornados, etc... Then the economy sure does not look good. I am not sure how that fits Bible prophecy except a little bit of food will cost a days wages.

  4. Hi Ken,

    Jesus said that in the Tribulation there will be famines. Matthew 24:7. In Revelation 6, the first set of judgments are unleashed called the Seal Judgments. The third seal judgment is scarcity on the earth. That's the third horseman who has a pair if scales in his hand (scales, or balances, were used to measure grain). The scarcity is food, it will cost a day's pay for one loaf of bread for many people. Between the crashed economy (the one world currency in Rev 13 is the idea to solve the problem of what will likely be severely devalued world currencies) and the scarcity due to all these natural disasters people will be hungry. And don't forget, the second seal is peace is taken from the earth: all the world will be in war. War also breeds famine.


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