Europe on alert over tainted cucumber scare

10:00, June 01, 2011      

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A deadly outbreak of E.coli linked to contaminated cucumbers is sending Europe on high alert, as death toll from the disease climbed to 16 till Tuesday.

So far, 15 people have reportedly died and more than 300 were seriously ill from infections linked to tainted vegetables in Germany. Experts said the numbers are expected to increase in the coming week.

"We hope the number of cases will go down but we fear it will worsen," said Oliver Grieve, spokesperson with the University Medical Center Schleswig where most German victims are being treated.

The German government has identified the pathogen as hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious complication of a type of E. coli known as Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC). The bacteria could damage blood cells and kidneys, and hence cause deaths.

A woman in her 50s was confirmed to be the first fatal victim out of Germany by a local hospital on Tuesday. Officials at the hospital in Boras, southwestern Sweden, said the woman, who had recently traveled to Germany, was admitted on May 29.

Swedish health authorities already said on Sunday that 36 people, all linked to travel in northern Germany, had been confirmed to have infected with E.coli, whereas cases were also reported in France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Britain.

It was the second food scare for European consumers this year. In January, highly toxic dioxin was found in eggs, poultry and pork products across Germany.

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