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E.coli outbreak in Europe infects thousands, proves fatal in some

by nickj on May 31, 2011

In what is being hailed by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control as one of the largest E.coli outbreaks of its kind, thousands of people have fallen ill and 15 have been counted dead in Spain, Germany, Sweden, France, Denmark and the Netherlands. Most deaths have occurred in the northern part of Germany and the news source reports that tensions have risen between the country and other European Union states.

German officials claim that the E.coli originated from cucumbers imported from Spain, according to Reuters. However, officials are unsure whether or not the vegetables became infected in Spain, or were already contaminated before they arrived in that nation.

Spain claims there's no proof that the cucumbers themselves were responsible for the E.coli, but a number of countries have already moved to block all cucumber imports, including Luxembourg, Germany, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Hungary and Russia.

Consequently, Spanish farmers are reportedly losing around $286 million each week in sales. Dutch farmers are being affected as well, because Germany has halted nearly all imports of cucumbers.

Russia's Gennady Onishchenko, the head of the nation's Federal Consumer Protection Agency, announced that Russia would be taking as many precautionary measures as possible.

"If the situation does not change, we will ban all the European vegetable products," he said.

Some believe that this kind of reaction is unnecessary.

"Efforts to pinpoint all possible sources of contamination are well under way and have already yielded preliminary results," the European Commission (EC) said in a statement."[The EC] would, therefore, consider any ban on any product as disproportionate."

The strain of E.coli is causing hemolytic-uremic syndrome, which has a 5 to 10 percent mortality rate and most often affects children. While most can recover naturally with no lingering side effects, patients occasionally develop chronic kidney disease. The elderly may also suffer more extreme symptoms than other adults.  

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