3 Jun 2011

Deadly bacteria 'unlikely' to reach NZ

10:32 pm on 3 June 2011

The Ministry of Health says a strain of the E.coli bacteria which has killed at least 18 people in Europe is unlikely to reach New Zealand.

More than 1600 people have been infected and at least 18 have died - 17 in Germany, the centre of the outbreak, and one in Sweden.

The World Health Organisation says it is an antibiotic-resistant variant of the bacteria that can lead to a potentially deadly complication affecting the blood and kidneys.

The ministry's chief adviser on population health, John Holmes, says people who have been to Germany could have been exposed to the bacteria.

However, Dr Holmes says it is not usually spread person-to-person and New Zealand does not import the raw, unprocessed foods that the strain of E.coli is thought to have originated from. However, the ministry will monitor the situation.

The disease may be linked to various contaminated vegetables, particularly cucumbers, from Europe.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry says New Zealand imports about 3% of vegetables from the European Union.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has not yet issued a warning against travel to Germany.