BERLIN – THE number of people falling sick as a result of E. coli contamination has slowed to a trickle, Germany’s national disease control center said on Tuesday, even as the death toll from the outbreak rose by one to 37.
The Robert Koch Institute said a total of 3,235 people in Germany have been reported ill, only seven more than the previous day.
Germany’s health minister has cautioned that even though the outbreak is waning further deaths are possible. The local council in the northern town of Celle said a two-year-old boy died overnight, news agency DAPD reported. German authorities have narrowed the source of the outbreak to vegetable sprouts from a farm in the north of the country.
Thirty-six people in Germany and one in Sweden have now died in what has been the deadliest outbreak of E. coli ever. The crisis has devastated farmers across Europe as frightened consumers shunned vegetables after German authorities initally advised people against eating cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce.
On Tuesday, the European Union approved a 210 million euro (S$373 million) compensation package for fruit and vegetable farmers.
FRANKFURT – THE death toll from a killer bacteria outbreak rose to 36 on Monday, German health officials said, one day after warning that more fatalities cannot be ruled out.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s national disease agency, said 3,228 people had fallen sick from the virulent EHEC (enterohaemorrhagic E. coli) or the linked kidney ailment haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS).
On Sunday, German officials said 34 people had died in the country, but upped that figure to 35 on Monday.
A woman who had travelled to Germany also previously died in Sweden.
‘For many days the number of new infections from EHEC or HUS communicated to the RKI has declined in the country,’ the agency said in a statement that confirmed the new toll.
German Health Minister Daniel Bahr told Sunday’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper that he was encouraged by the decline in new infections, but warned that more deaths were still possible. — AFP
BERLIN — Specialists in high-tech labs tested thousands of vegetables as they hunted for the source of world’s deadliest E. coli outbreak, but in the end it was old-fashioned detective work that provided the answer: German-grown sprouts.
After more than a month of searching, health officials announced Friday they had determined that sprouts from an organic farm in the northern German village of Bienenbuettel were the source of the outbreak that has killed 31 people, sickened nearly 3,100 and prompted much of Europe to shun vegetables.
“It was like a crime thriller where you have to find the bad guy,” said Helmut Tschiersky-Schoeneburg, head of Germany’s consumer protection agency.
It’s little surprise that sprouts were the culprit — they have been implicated in many previous food-borne outbreaks: ones in Michigan and Virginia in 2005, and large outbreak in Japan in 1996 that killed 11 people and sickened more than 9,000.
While sprouts are full of protein and vitamins, their ability to transmit disease makes some public health officials nervous. Sprouts have abundant surface area for bacteria to cling to, and if their seeds are contaminated, washing won’t help.
“E. coli can stick tightly to the surface of seeds needed to make sprouts and they can lay dormant on the seeds for months,”
Cases of infection by the deadly E coli bacterium have continued to spread around the world from its source in northern Germany, reaching a dozen countries by Friday evening as the German chancellor and Spanish prime minister moved to calm a diplomatic row over the source of the infection.
The Czech Republic and the US have joined the list of those dealing with cases amid concern that some of those infected had not visited Germany and so must have been infected elsewhere.
Angela Merkel has said she would push for EU help for farmers in Spain – whose cucumbers were wrongly blamed by German authorities for the outbreak.
Germany reported a further 200 cases diagnosed on the first two days of the month as the total number of people infected worldwide rose above 1,800. The total number of reported deaths in Germany is 19. Just 11 cases have been confirmed in England.
“All these cases except two are in people who reside in or had recently visited northern Germany during the incubation period for the infection … or, in one case, had contact with a visitor from northern Germany,” said the World Health Organisation in a statement.
The spread of cases in Germany has begun to slow, however, raising hopes that the outbreak might be controlled as Germans heed warnings to wash and prepare vegetables carefully and avoid raw cucumber, tomatoes and lettuce.
TU.S. farmers, processors not required to test for deadly E. coli strain
By Lyndsey Layton, Thursday, June 2, 8:28 AM
The bacterium that has killed more than a dozen Europeans, sickened nearly 2,000 more and raised international alarms would be legal if it were found on meat or poultry in the United States.
If the bacterium were to contaminate fruits or vegetables grown here, there would be no way to prevent an outbreak, because farmers and processors are not required to test for the pathogen before the food heads to supermarkets.
“If somehow this strain got into that same environment and spread rapidly, it would represent a major disaster in terms of the U.S. food industry and risk to humans,” said J. Glenn Morris, a former official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who directs the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida. “The regulatory framework is a couple of steps behind.”
The strain that has emerged in Europe is a particularly virulent version of E. coli 0104 and, in the outbreak that began in early May, has been linked to more than 1,600 illnesses and 18 deaths. About 500 people — an unusually large percentage of those who have been sickened — have developed a life-threatening kidney complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, for which there is no treatment.