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E. coli infection figures stabilising

The Local · 3 Jun 2011, 14:33

Published: 03 Jun 2011 14:33 GMT+02:00

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A report in Bild tabloid newspaper due to be published on Saturday said police in the port city were investigating two food distributors and one restaurateur on, “suspicion of trading health-endangering foodstuffs in connection with the contaminated cucumbers,” according to a police spokesman.

"The situation is that the number of new infections appears to be stabilising somewhat," Reinhard Brunkhorst, president of the German Nephrology Society, told reporters in Hamburg, the epicentre of the scare.

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

Those infected can develop stomach cramps, diarrhoea, fever and vomiting, while severe cases can include haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) and kidney failure.

Seventeen of those who have died of complications arising from the EHEC infection were in Germany while one person who died in Sweden had recently returned from Germany.

More than 2,000 people in Germany have confirmed EHEC poisoning while at least 470 of them have developed HUS, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), with 10 other European countries plus the United States reporting HUS or EHEC infections.

There are 29 cases of HUS caused by EHEC outside of Germany, but all apart from two of these cases are in people who live in or had recently visited northern Germany, or, in one case, had contact with a visitor from there, the WHO said.

Blood plasma supplies needed to treat HUS patients are in strong demand in northern Germany, with the regional blood donor service delivering 7,500 units to hospitals in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein over the last few days, whereas normally between 800 and 1,000 units are needed per month.

This has led to blood supplies being shipped to the north from other areas of the country, particularly the south, where E- coli infections are fewer, meaning the demand is lower. The service is confident that despite the regional discrepancies, Germany as a whole would not face shortages.

Authorities said they were no closer to identifying the origin of the outbreak but Chancellor Angela Merkel defended an earlier warning against Spanish cucumbers which later turned out to be wrong, while Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he would not allow Russians to "get poisoned" by European vegetable imports and has refused to lift a broad import ban.

Authorities emphasised that, contrary to some fears, there was no evidence the outbreak was started by bio-terrorists.

Merkel defended last week's false warning against organic Spanish cucumbers in a phone call Thursday with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, saying authorities were "duty-bound to inform the public at all times."

The advisory, retracted this week, left tens of thousands of tonnes of Spanish produce unsold, costing Spanish growers an estimated €200 million euros a week.

"Both leaders agreed that the priority now must be to identify the source of the EHEC outbreak in order to be able to take further measures to protect the public," Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

Both Berlin and Madrid said that they had agreed to seek compensation at European level. Farmers in other countries have also complained that they have been affected.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany's national disease centre, still advises consumers, primarily in the north of the country, to avoid cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce – whatever their origin.

"It doesn't matter where the products come from. They can be from Germany, Israel or wherever ... At the moment we are unable to narrow it down," Andreas Hensel, head of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), said on Friday.

Story continues below…

Russia, meanwhile, has banned vegetable imports from the whole of the European Union in response to the scare, earning the ire of the European Commission, which called the move "disproportionate."

Fernando Valenzuela, the head of an EU delegation to Russia, said the ban was "not compliant" with Moscow's bid to join the World Trade Organisation.

Putin said he would check the validity of Moscow's ban but warned he would not allow Russians to "get poisoned" for the sake of its WTO membership hopes.

The Local/AFP/DAPD/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:56 June 3, 2011 by crunchy2k
Is organic produce really safe? We had such an outbreak in the USA just a year ago with deaths....Maybe organic quote labling is being done wrong. Maybe it shouldn't be done at all. as the organic kill with ecoli and the culture crops keep people alive.
15:58 June 3, 2011 by freechoice
China helps unravel new E.coli for embattled Europe

16:02 June 3, 2011 by crunchy2k
and the pig over in china caused this?

Do not post childish responses from unknown sources...pls.
16:37 June 3, 2011 by T.J. Morton
@crunchy2k, what does your response have to do with what's been posted above? Where is a childish response from an unknown source? And you should probably proof read your responses, to make sure they even makes sense, before you go blathering on about childish responses - because I know children who can write better than that! On a side note, when did Fernando Valenzuela take his mad, screwball throwing skills from the Dodgers to the head of an EU delegation to Russia? ;-)
20:33 June 3, 2011 by Kayak
"At the moment we are unable to narrow [the location of the contamination source] down," Andreas Hensel, head of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), said on Friday.

Did I hear him suggest that the source **could** be found in Germany?

No I didn't.

Pity the Spanish.
20:46 June 3, 2011 by SusanInSFL
crunchy2k makes no sense.

I'm in the US and a big safe-food advocate. I know about the corrupt system in the US, the filthy factory farming and the corporate greed that causes problems here.

But what about the EU? What are the organic standards there? Are there certifying agencies there much as we have here? While Organic may not be perfect, it's the best thing we have here in the US.
21:55 June 3, 2011 by Kayak
Herr Hensell suggests that the deadly strain of E. coli could be, "from Germany, Israel or wherever"

@Kayak; Learn to read before you shoot your mouth off about German officials avoiding any German responsibility!
22:00 June 3, 2011 by 9900lawre
The outbreak is stabilising because many people all of a suden when faced with a contaminent seem to be doing what Grandma told them. Wash your hands and wash your fruit and veg before eating it, wash down your chopping boards between food types etc etc...

Can't say it's fare to the dead and dying but a little bit of a shake up was needed to remind us of some home principles when it comes to food.

The true organic principle WITHOUT tampering or WITHOUT introduction of human fecal matter is not bad if you just follow what grandma said.
02:39 June 4, 2011 by swissmissled
I think you should cook your vegetables until this goes away. I live in the US and for the past 24 hours have had major diarrhea and stomach cramps. It could be nothing but I had a raw tomato from a fast food place last night. I certainly wish those infected a speedy recovery and will pray for the families of those who have died.
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