31 May 2011

More cases of E.coli outbreak expected in Europe

9:16 pm on 31 May 2011

An E. coli outbreak linked to contaminated cucumbers that has killed 14 people and made 329 seriously ill in Germany has spread to other north European countries.

The pathogen has been identified on organic cucumbers imported from Spain but it is unclear if they were contaminated there, during transport or in Germany.

Authorities say there are 36 cases of suspected E. coli in Sweden, all linked to travel in northern Germany, Reuters reports.

A small number of cases have been reported in Britain, Denmark, France and the Netherlands, also all linked with travel to Germany.

A health official in northern Germany, where most of the deaths have occurred, says the number of cases are expected to rise in the next week.

In Hamburg, hospitals are struggling to cope with hundreds of very sick people, some critically ill.

In many instances, the gastrointestinal infection has led to Haemolytic-uraemic Syndrome (HUS), which causes kidney problems and can be fatal.

HUS affects the blood, kidneys and, in severe cases, the nervous system and can be particularly serious for children and the elderly.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said in a risk assessment that the outbreak is one the largest in the world of its kind.