Germany: outbreak waning, but more deaths possible

June 11, 2011 By DOROTHEE THIESING , Associated Press
In this June 10, 2011 file photo German Ariculturale and Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner, left, and Health Minister Daniel Bahr, right, brief the media about new results in the search for the source of a deadly European E. coli outbreak, at the German parliament Bundestag in Berlin. Germany's health minister says he's hopeful that the worst of an E. coli outbreak that blamed on sprouts is over - but he is warning that the number of deaths, now at 33, may still increase, Bahr was quoted Saturday June 11, 2011 as telling the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

(AP) -- Germany's health minister says he's hopeful that the worst of an E. coli outbreak blamed on sprouts is over - but he is warning that the number of deaths, now at 33, may still increase.

Minister Daniel Bahr's comments came after health officials announced on Friday that they had traced the outbreak to sprouts from a farm in northern Germany. They also lifted a warning against eating cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce, which initially had been suspected as possible culprits.

The E. coli outbreak, the world's deadliest, has sickened nearly 3,100 people - most of them in Germany - and prompted many in Europe to shun vegetables over recent weeks.

"The (E. coli) wave is gradually abating - there is reason to hope the worst is now over," Bahr was quoted Saturday as telling the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. He added that a major new flare-up is "very unlikely."

However, "further deaths are not ruled out, as painful as that is," he added.

In Hamburg, one of the areas worst hit by the outbreak, customers at the city's Wandsbek market were back to buying cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce on Saturday.

With the end of the warning, "now they are coming back to the markets," said farmer Wolfgang Sannmann, who was selling vegetables and fruit. "And the consumer can buy again what he wants and what his tells him."

Still, some customers remained wary despite officials' assurances that they had pinned down the source.

"I am still very cautious, because in the first place they said it's the cucumbers, and everyone stopped eating them, and now it's the sprouts," said real-estate agent Jessica Hemblen, 27. "I'm not sure whether this is it, or whether it's not going to be something different again."

"It can occur everywhere, and other things can come up too, so I am trying to get a good mixture (of ) to lower the risk," said retiree Edith Karg.

say they tracked the bacteria's path from struggling with and kidney failure, to restaurants where they had dined, to specific meals and ingredients they ate, and finally back to a single farm.

Also on Friday, officials in Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia state said tests had found the deadly E. coli strain in a bag of sprouts from the farm that was in the garbage of a family near Cologne, two of whose members had been sickened.

They initially cautioned that the bag had been open for some time and more tests were under way. But Germany's federal risk assessment agency said Saturday that those tests confirmed the strain - adding to the certainty.

There are more questions to answer, including what contaminated the sprouts in the first place - perhaps tainted seeds or water, or nearby animals.

Interviews with thousands of patients, mostly women ages 20 to 50 with healthy lifestyles, led investigators to conclude initially that salads could be the problem. That resulting in the warning to avoid cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce, which caused major losses for European farmers.

"Of course I have understanding for the companies that have been left sitting on their cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuces," said Bahr, the .

"But I say that protecting health is the priority; if, thanks to the warning, a single human life was not endangered, that is in everyone's interest."

shares

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Ambitious global virome project could mark end of pandemic era

February 23, 2018
Rather than wait for viruses like Ebola, SARS and Zika to become outbreaks that force the world to react, a new global initiative seeks to proactively identify, prepare for and stop viral threats before they become pandemics.

Forecasting antibiotic resistance with a 'weather map' of local data

February 23, 2018
The resistance that infectious microbes have to antibiotics makes it difficult for physicians to confidently select the right drug to treat an infection. And that resistance is dynamic: It changes from year to year and varies ...

Study reveals how kidney disease happens

February 22, 2018
Monash researchers have solved a mystery, revealing how certain immune cells work together to instigate autoimmune kidney disease.

Scientists gain new insight on how antibodies interact with widespread respiratory virus

February 22, 2018
Scientists have found and characterized the activity of four antibodies produced by the human immune system that target an important protein found in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), according to new research published ...

Past encounters with the flu shape vaccine response

February 20, 2018
New research on why the influenza vaccine was only modestly effective in recent years shows that immune history with the flu influences a person's response to the vaccine.

Building better tiny kidneys to test drugs and help people avoid dialysis

February 16, 2018
A free online kidney atlas built by USC researchers empowers stem cell scientists everywhere to generate more human-like tiny kidneys for testing new drugs and creating renal replacement therapies.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.