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E. coli death toll hits 30
Photo: DPA

E. coli death toll hits 30

Published: 09 Jun 2011 08:56 GMT+02:00
Updated: 09 Jun 2011 17:14 GMT+02:00

The death toll from an outbreak of killer bacteria centred on Germany jumped to at least 30 on Thursday, as EU and Russian leaders got ready to cross swords over Moscow's ban on EU vegetables.

The latest victim was a 57-year-old man in Frankfurt who last month travelled with his wife to the northern city of Hamburg, an epicentre of the outbreak, authorities in the western city said.

The death of a 68-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman were also reported in the northern state of Lower Saxony. The toll is now at least 30, including one woman in Sweden who had recently returned from Germany.

More than 2,800 people were also ill in at least 14 countries with enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) poisoning, which in severe cases can lead to renal failure. Most are women.

Germany had expressed hope Wednesday that the worst of the outbreak was over, with Health Minister Daniel Bahr saying the number of new infections was falling.

Spain's Europe minister meanwhile secured a promise from German officials to make amends for earlier incorrectly blaming Spanish cucumbers for the outbreak by helping to repair the image of the country's produce.

"The German government has agreed to make an effort to improve the image of Spanish produce in Germany," Diego Lopez Garrido said in Berlin after talks with counterpart Werner Hoyer.

"Twenty-five percent of our vegetable exports are to Germany, it is our most important export market. Therefore it is also the duty of the German government to assist us with promotion."

He described as "unfortunate" a false alarm by Hamburg's top health official two weeks ago blaming Spanish cucumbers as a source for the outbreak that prompted an European Union-wide alert, later withdrawn.

"A mistake was made and mistakes remain mistakes but we must move forward together," Lopez Garrido said.

He said Madrid would not sue Hamburg for compensation, and would not get involved in any private lawsuits by Spanish growers, who are losing €225 million ($328 million) per week according to the FEPEX umbrella body.

He described as "not necessarily sufficient" a revised offer from the European Commission for compensation of €210 million for producers across Europe.

Moscow's blanket ban imposed last week on all vegetable imports from the EU was expected to be a point of contention at a two-day summit between Russian and EU leaders in Nizhny Novgorod starting Thursday.

With Russia the largest market for its vegetables, the EU has reacted furiously to the ban, calling for it to be lifted immediately.

A source in the Russian delegation underlined the awkward atmosphere ahead of the talks, describing the EU reaction as "abnormal" and suggesting its diplomats should publicly eat European cucumbers.

The search for the source of the outbreak continued, meanwhile.

Authorities in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt played down the discovery of cucumber pieces with traces of the killer bacteria in the two-week-old rubbish of a Magdeburg family who fell ill.

"According to the information we have now, this is not a decisive lead," a spokesman for the state social affairs ministry told news agency AFP.

Tests were continuing meanwhile at an organic sprout farm on which suspicion had fallen at the weekend.

Health Minister Bahr said Germany would maintain its warning against eating raw tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and various sprouts until the cause of the contamination was known.

The Robert Koch Institute national health centre said it was not certain whether the drop in new cases was linked to consumers avoiding the blacklisted vegetables.

In a sign that the outbreak was scaring people into avoiding Germany, Britain's rowing team on Wednesday withdrew from the World Cup regatta in Hamburg later this month.

AFP/mry

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

09:35 June 9, 2011 by mashlakhito
When such stories make it to the news, common sense and logic flies out the window and irrational behavior starts happening. Why would anyone panic over such over-hyped stories is beyond me.
10:35 June 9, 2011 by antoniodelgado
Why you don't add the adjective "deadly" in articles related to knifes, cars, AIDS, ...? Do you want to send some kind of message to the readers?
10:52 June 9, 2011 by marimay
Ahem..

One makes the decision to get into a car, possess a knife, or have unprotected sex.

I am pretty sure these people didn't choose to potentially die from e-coli. And I am pretty sure that people are not willing to risk getting it, especially since "officials" can not seem to figure out where it came from in the first place. One should not have to play russian roulette with their food, it is a necessity in life.
12:04 June 9, 2011 by DinhoPilot
@marimay

True... true...

People will always panick about things they cannot control, and it makes sense, cause that's what keeps us alive.
15:37 June 9, 2011 by catjones
Instead of a leaderless, knee jerk , food-panic, the gov should tell consumers what to do with all vegs to remove the virus....wash? mircowave? fry?
16:49 June 9, 2011 by msbeautifool
a work-around is good but finding the root cause is way better.
17:26 June 9, 2011 by Relaxed
No German compensation for Spain or other countries affected by the bungling beaurocrats? First the "system" takes them almost three weeks to announce the e.coli outbreak. Then a stain of e.coli is found in Spanish cucumbers, but NOT the strain which is killing or hospitalising people. Why issue such a crass warning when you know the e.coli in a cucumber is not the strain which is causing the illnesses?

Panic again by Government and State ministers, like after Fukushima? There is a need for a wholesale review of the "integrated" reporting system when such outbreaks occur and a need for more caution in apportioning blame. Yes the authorities need to provide early and quick warnings to the public, but this must be based on facts.
20:33 June 9, 2011 by Bushdiver
Well, it seems to me that the Russians are the only country using their heads considering the widely false info coming from German Health authorities. I wound't believe any reports coming out of Germany as to what has caused this infection or it's origin.
21:39 June 9, 2011 by catjones
This e.coli? Nope, wrong e.coli. This e.coli? Nope, not that e.coli either. How about this e.coli? Nope, still not the right e.coli.

How many 'wrong' e.coli are out there?
03:19 June 10, 2011 by Hibernicus
I'm surprised no one has suggested that this outbreak could be a release from a mutated lab culture either accidental, through stupidity in handling or, more sinister, a deliberate attack on Germany by some hostile force. Bacteria can mutate naturally but it is unlikely that they could gain immunity to a select list of current antibiotics except through constant exposure in a laboratory, triggering an immune response. This merits more serious forensic investigation into the origins of this strain. German people should insist on this avenue of investigation being included as a possibility.
01:38 June 12, 2011 by JMWinPR
I don't see what the problem is. This was all natural organic farming at its best.
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