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Numbers of people sickened by E. coli still rising


June 6, 2011
By The Canadian Press

Topics

ecoliJune
3, 2011, Berlin – Nearly 200 new cases of E. coli infection were reported in
Germany in the first two days of June, the national disease control centre
reported Friday, but officials say there are signs the European bacterial
outbreak that has killed 18 people could be slowing.

June
3, 2011, Berlin – Nearly 200 new cases of E. coli infection were reported in
Germany in the first two days of June, the national disease control centre
reported Friday, but officials say there are signs the European bacterial
outbreak that has killed 18 people could be slowing.

The
Robert Koch Institute said that there are now 1,733 people in Germany – the
epicenter of the outbreak – who have been sickened, including 520 suffering from
a life-threatening complication that can cause kidney failure.

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The
World Health Organization said that as of May 31, nine other European nations
have reported a total of 80 people sick from the bacteria, most of whom had
recently visited northern Germany.

While
suspicion has fallen on raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce as the source of
the germ, researchers have been unable to pinpoint the food responsible.

The
outbreak is considered the third-largest involving E. coli in recent world
history, and it is already the deadliest. Twelve people died in a 1996 Japanese
outbreak that reportedly sickened more than 9,000, and seven died in a Canadian
outbreak in 2000.

Kidney
specialist Dr. Reinhard Brunkhorst, the president of the German Nephrology
Society
, told reporters in Hamburg that hospitals are now seeing fewer new
infections reported each day, though cautioned that “it may be less, but it’s
not over yet.”

“There
is no reason for hysteria, because it’s not spreading and it’s not increasing –
it’s decreasing,” he said.

Researcher
Dag Harmsen at the Muenster University Hospital, which has been closely
involved in the investigation of the outbreak, said that scientists were hoping
to know enough about the E. coli strain by next week to be able to prevent new
infections and better treat patients.

The
WHO recommends that to avoid food-borne illnesses, people wash their hands,
keep raw meat separate from other foods, thoroughly cook their food, and wash
fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw. Experts also recommend peeling
raw fruits and vegetables if possible.

As
the number of consumers avoiding vegetables grows, European farmers say they
are losing millions of euros every day.

Russia
has extended a ban on vegetables from Spain and Germany to the entire European
Union to try to stop the outbreak spreading east, a move the EU quickly called
disproportionate and Italy’s farmers denounced as “absurd.” No deaths or
infections have been reported in Russia.

Meanwhile,
Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez
Zapatero to push for EU help for affected farmers, Merkel’s spokesman said.

Merkel,
however, also defended the decision of state officials in Hamburg to announce
their suspicions that Spanish cucumbers were the possible source of the
outbreak. The warning was given after three cucumbers from Spain tested
positive for E. coli, but further tests then revealed that it was a different
strain to the one that has sickened so many people in the northern port city
and elsewhere.

“The
chancellor indicated great understanding for the urgent economic situation in
the Spanish produce sector,” spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

“At
the same time she noted the responsibility of the German agencies to keep
citizens informed in all phases and to report test results to the European
early warning system.”

In
the southern Spanish tourist resort town of Torremolinos, Spaniards handed out
some seven tons of cucumbers free to the public in a show of support for the
farmers affected by the outbreak who have seen their market collapse.