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E. coli outbreak spreads

world Updated: May 28, 2011 09:07 IST

AFP
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More than 270 people in Germany have fallen seriously ill due to potentially deadly bacteria detected in imported Spanish cucumbers, leading Spain to suspend the activities of two distributors.

Dozens more cases have been reported across Europe as experts probe two agricultural sites in the southern Spanish provinces of Almeria and Malaga suspected of exporting products tainted with E. coli, the European Commission in Brussels said.

"Investigations are ongoing to identify other potential sources, while a third suspect batch of cucumbers originating either in the Netherlands or in Denmark, and traded in Germany, is also under investigation," the European Union's executive arm said.

The Robert Koch Institute, Germany's national disease centre, said more than 60 new cases of haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) had been reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number in Germany to 276. At least two people have died.

Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli causes HUS, which can result in acute renal failure, seizures, strokes and coma.

According to the Commission, Sweden has reported 25 E. coli cases, with 10 of those people developing HUS, while Denmark has seven E. coli cases (including three HUS) and Britain three cases (two HUS).

The Netherlands had one HUS case and Austria reported two cases of enterohaemorrhagic E. coli, it said.

Russia's top health official said a ban on imports of vegetables from Germany was a possible option.