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Germany battles E-coli outbreak
Imported cucumbers believed to be source of deadly bacteria that may have killed as many as 10 people.
Last Modified: 29 May 2011 22:56
A batch of Spanish organic cucumbers has been identified as a source of the outbreak in Germany [Reuters]

As many as 10 people in Germany are thought to have died as a result of a new outbreak of the deadly E-coli bacteria, the source of which is said to be imported Spanish cucumbers.

The European Commission has identified organic cucumbers grown in Spain's southern provinces of Almeria and Malaga as a source of the outbreak.

But German officials on Sunday warned that the exact source of the bacteria responsible for the German deaths had yet to be identified.

"Until experts in Germany and Spain are able to positively identify the  source of the pathogen, general warnings about vegetables remain valid," Ilse Aiger, Germany's consumer minister, was quoted by the Bild am Sonntag newspaper as saying.

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

Immediate recall

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

There are eight other suspected HUS deaths, and the institute has said that close to 300 people have contracted the disease in recent weeks.

Normally about 60 people in Germany a year contract HUS, which can cause bloody diarrhoea and serious liver problems. In some cases it can even cause seizures, strokes and coma.

The deaths included four fatalities announced on Saturday in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein and in Hamburg, including three women in their 80s and a fourth in her 30s.

Southern Spanish authorities said that they had introduced restrictions on two distributors of organic cucumbers and Andalusia's regional council said suspect batches had been also been withdrawn.

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

Suspected contamination

For their part, Austrian health authorities warned on Sunday that a small numbers of Spanish cucumbers suspected of contamination with the bacteria are being recalled from stores.

The Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety said that the cucumbers are the subject of an immediate recall that also applies to tomatoes and eggplants.

In the Czech Republic, officials said that 120 organic Spanish cucumbers suspected of contamination are being pulled off shelves.

The Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority says cucumbers from the same shipment also went to Hungary and Luxembourg, but there were no immediate reports of illness there.

Source:
Agencies
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