German E. coli outbreak 'stabilising': doctor

3rd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

An outbreak of E. coli poisoning that has killed at least 18 people appears to be stabilising, a senior doctor in the German city of Hamburg, the epicentre of the outbreak, said Friday.

"The situation is that the number of new infections appears to be stabilising somewhat," said Reinhard Brunkhorst, president of the German Nephrology Society dealing with kidney diseases.

"We are dealing here in fact with the biggest epidemic caused by bacteria in recent decades," he told reporters.

Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) can cause bloody diarrhoea, as well as full-blown haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening kidney disease. Some 500 people have contracted HUS.

All but one of the 18 fatalities died in Germany, while the 18th, who passed away in Sweden, had recently travelled there. At least 499 people, 470 in Germany, have HUS while there are 1,115 reported EHEC cases, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

Brunkhorst said there are currently no indications that the bug can be transmitted from person to person.

Officials in the northern city of Hamburg initially blamed organic Spanish cucumbers but tests this week showed that while they carried EHEC bacteria, it was not the strain responsible for the contamination.

Despite the false alarm over Spanish produce, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany's national disease centre, still advises consumers to avoid cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce, particularly in the north of the country.

© 2011 AFP

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