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Death toll rises from E.coli-tainted cucumbers

As many as 10 people in Germany have died in the E.coli outbreak from Spanish organic cucumbers, and hundreds more are said to have fallen sick.

Germany toxic cucumbers 052911Enlarge
German health authorities have announced they suspect cucumbers, tomatoes and salad grown in northern Germany to be possible carriers of potentially lethal enterohemorrhagic E. coli, also known as the EHEC bacteria. (Joern Pollex/Getty Images)

As many as 10 people in Germany have died from an outbreak of E.coli caused by infected cucumbers, and hundreds more are said to have fallen sick.

The organic cucumbers are believed to have been imported from southern Spain, but the source of the E.coli has yet to be pinpointed.

The vegetables were found to be contaminated with E.coli, which made people sick with hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). This rare and aggressive complication arising from the E.coli bacterium affects the central nervous system and can cause kidney failure.

Three hundred people have fallen ill from HUS, and more than 1,000 are suspected of being infected. Of the 10 that have died, nine were women.

Health officials in Germany have advised people to avoid eating cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce.

Concern is spreading through other European countries that may have imported the cucumbers, including Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Luxemburg.

Most of the cases so far in Germany have been in the area around Hamburg. But cases of HUS have also been reported in Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK, linked to German travel. The EU has warned people who have recently visited Germany to consult doctors if they experience bloody diarrhea.

The Sweden-based European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said this outbreak was "one of the largest described of HUS worldwide and the largest ever reported in Germany,” the BBC reports.

"While HUS cases are usually observed in children under five years of age, in this outbreak 87 percen are adults, with a clear predominance of women (68 percent)," it said.

Spain has announced restrictions on two suspected exporters from the southern provinces of Almeria and Malaga. It is unclear how the cucumbers were infected with E.coli — whether at source or while in transit.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/germany/110529/germany-ecoli-cucumbers-bacteria-outbreak-deaths-food-safety