5 Jun 2011

Signs E. coli cases are stabilising say doctors

7:38 pm on 5 June 2011

European health officials say there are signs the outbreak of a deadly strain of E. coli is stabilising.

They say despite despite nearly 200 new cases in Germany, the centre of the outbreak, in the past week, infection rates are dropping.

At least 18 people have died and more than 1800 been infected by the bug since it was first detected at the beginning of May.

Most of the cases are in Germany.

And the World Health Organisation says of the 103 people in 12 other countries who have the bug - all but one had recently travelled to or from northern Germany.

Scientists say the E. coli is a new hybrid form toxic to humans.

Germans are being advised not to eat raw vegetables, although one European laboratory has thrown doubt on whether contaminated produce could be the source.

A restaurant near the outbreak's epicentre in Hamburg, has been cleared as the cause of making 17 diners ill last month with E. coli.

The outbreak has led to a global scare, and worrying times for European farmers.

Russia, the EU's largest export market for vegetables, has rejected pleas from Brussels to drop its ban on the import of fresh vegetables.

Sales of Spanish produce have all but ground to a halt across Europe, following initial claims from Germany that Spanish cucumbers were the source of the outbreak.