• Germany's news in English

Alarm spreads as E. coli cases rise sharply

The Local · 1 Jun 2011, 15:35

Published: 01 Jun 2011 15:35 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The new figures came as doctors in Schleswig-Holstein reported that the bacterial illness was also causing unusual neurological effects including epilepsy.

Seventeen people – one in Sweden and the rest in Germany – have now died from the virulent form of enterohamorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), which can cause bloody diarrhoea and kidney failure known as haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS).

In the past day, the number of cases rose in Lower Saxony by 80 to 344, while in Hamburg another 99 cases were identified, bringing the total in the port city to 668.

“We are again seeing a clear rise in cases of people sick with EHEC and HUS,” Hamburg’s Health Minister Cornelia Prüfer-Storcks said. “The situation remains worrying and it is definitely too early to give any kind of all-clear.”

An 84-year-old woman who died on Sunday has now been identified as the 17th confirmed victim, the Lower Saxony Health Ministry announced Wednesday.

Authorities continued desperately to search for the source of the bacteria as Spain vented its anger over the earlier statements by Hamburg authorities that they had identified Spanish cucumbers as contaminated – a claim they have since retracted.

Spain said it was considering legal action over what it says are €200 million in losses for its farmers.

The official number of confirmed cases according to the Robert Koch Institute, the government’s public health adviser, stands at 1,064. Of these, 470 have become ill with HUS. All states are affected by three quarters of the HUS have been across northern states: Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony.

A worrying new dimension has been reported in Schleswig-Holstein – the worst-affected state with 121 cases. Every second patient being treated for HUS at the state’s University Hospital is developing unusual neurological complications, ranging from headaches to speech problems and up to epilepsy.

“We are observing unexpected characteristics to the illness with which we’re not familiar,” said Hendrik Lehnert, director of the hospital’s Lübeck campus.

Some 91 patients are currently being treated for HUS at Lübeck and the hospital’s other campus in Kiel, 23 of them in intensive care. The neurological problems were starting about three or four days after the HUS symptoms began.

Story continues below…

The hospital’s doctors have changed tactics and begun using antibiotics earlier than they were before, said director Stefan Schreiber.

“We have learnt something,” he said, referring to knowledge gained from an autopsy on a patient who died, which revealed that the bacteria inflamed nearly the whole stomach and intestinal tract. “The bacteria live much longer that we previously thought.”

DAPD/The Local/djw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

21:33 June 1, 2011 by ambar
Distribution and main markets around Hamburg have been tested? The problem is located in the area and with this so incompetent politicians people should start praying
01:51 June 2, 2011 by ruby_18559
this is really creepy....could it be a biohazard accident or something?
15:29 June 2, 2011 by jbaker
Does E-Coli only come from mammal/animal feces? If this is the truth, than stop using water that is laced with fecal material on the vegetables.

You can grow your own vegetables or buy from a farmer that sells produce right off his/her grounds and is not prcessed in any way.

Vegetables,Fruits and Grains should be our primary food.

If you eat meat, buy that directly from the farmer and the chance of getting E-Coli is almost non-existant.
20:45 June 3, 2011 by jg.
"Does E-Coli only come from mammal/animal feces? If this is the truth, than stop using water that is laced with fecal material on the vegetables."

Then there is the use of animal manure as fertiliser to consider - including widespread use in organic farming. Contamination could also come from rats, mice, moles and other wildlife, which also carry e. coli.

Buying direct from a farmer will not give you meat or produce that is free of e. coli. However, e. coli in meat or other foods is killed during cooking - which is why salad foods are suspected as infection vectors in the recent cases.
Today's headlines
Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

US 'warned Merkel' against Chinese takeover of tech firm
Aixtron HQ. Photo: DPA

The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

Eurowings cabin crew union to strike all day Thursday
Photo: DPA.

UPDATE: A union representing cabin crews on Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings has announced that strikes will last all day Thursday as ongoing contract negotiations continue to falter.

Hesse hopes to set example by building Iraqi orphanages
Refugee children in northern Iraq. Photo: DPA

The wealthy central German state of Hesse has set aside €1 million to build a school, family homes and an orphanage in northern Iraq, in an effort to help refugees there.

The Local List
10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
David Hasselhoff. Photo: DPA

Whether it be efficiency, humourlessness or a love of a certain Baywatch star, there are many cliches stuck in the heads of foreigners about Germany. But how true are they?

Fake Germanwings victim relative convicted in Cologne
A torn piece of metal at the crash site in 2015. Photo: DPA

A German court on Wednesday gave a woman a year's suspended jail sentence for posing as the cousin of a victim in last year's Germanwings plane crash and obtaining compensation offered by the airline.

Couple accused of torturing, murdering women go on trial
The so-called 'house of horrors' in Höxter where the couple allegedly tortured and killed women. Photo: DPA.

A couple accused of luring women to their village home with personal ads started trial on Wednesday over charges that they tortured and killed at least two of their victims.

After July attacks, govt drafts new video surveillance law
Photo: DPA

The Interior Ministry is drafting a law which will enable public spaces to be filmed for surveillance purposes as a reaction to deadly attacks in July, according to a newspaper report.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd