Germany says deadly E. coli source unclear

29th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Germany warned Sunday that the source of an outbreak of bacteria poisoning blamed for 10 deaths and hundreds of people falling ill, some in other countries, has yet to be pinpointed.

"Until experts in Germany and Spain are able to positively identify the source of the pathogen, general warnings about vegetables remain valid," Consumer Minister Ilse Aiger told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

"The relevant authorities are doing all they can to clear this up, nationally and internationally."

Germany's national disease institute, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), has confirmed so far two deaths from haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a disease caused by a strain of bacteria known as enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC).

There are eight other suspected HUS deaths, and the RKI has said that more than 270 people have contracted the disease in recent weeks. Normally in a whole year around 60 people contract HUS in Germany.

The epicentre of the outbreak has been in northern Germany, with hundreds of other suspected cases reported, but cases have also been reported in France, Sweden, Denmark, Britain, Switzerland, Austria and The Netherlands.

Suspicion has so far turned on Spain, with the European Commission saying Friday that organic cucumbers grown in the southern provinces of Almeria and Malaga had been confirmed as a source of the outbreak.

Southern Spanish authorities said Saturday they had introduced restrictions on two distributors suspected of exporting tainted cucumbers. Andalusia's regional council said suspect batches had been withdrawn pending tests.

But the European Commission also said that a batch of cucumbers originating either in The Netherlands or in Denmark, and traded in Germany, was also under investigation.

© 2011 AFP

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