Germany Reports Another Bacteria Death, Cause Still a Mystery

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 3:15 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

German officials say another person has died from a mysterious killer bacteria, raising the death toll in Europe to 17, all but one in Germany.

Local authorities reported Wednesday that an 84-year-old woman died on Sunday from the food-borne bacterial outbreak, which has sickened more than 1,500 people in nine European countries since mid-May.

Germany says the number of its people sickened by the disease is growing rapidly. The country's national disease control center Wednesday said the number of confirmed cases of E. coli infections jumped from 373 on Tuesday to 470 a day later. Sixteen people have now died in Germany and another one in Sweden.

German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner says scientists are scrambling to pinpoint the source of the outbreak, but they have yet to find the cause. Several days into the outbreak, authorities say they are not sure what produce — and what country — is responsible, although those sickened most likely were infected by eating raw cucumbers, tomatoes or lettuce. She advised consumers to continue to avoid those vegetables. The E. coli infection attacks the victims' kidneys, sometimes causing seizures, strokes and comas.

Germany initially pointed to a few cucumbers from Spain as a possible source of the contamination, but further tests showed that those vegetables were not the cause of the outbreak. Germany, Belgium and Russia have banned Spanish vegetable imports, pending an investigation, but Spanish officials say those countries wrongly jumped to conclusions.

Spain said it is not ruling out taking legal actions against German officials who questioned the quality of the Spanish imports. The allegations have sharply curtailed Spanish fruit and vegetable exports.

The World Health Organization says that besides Germany and Sweden, cases of the infections have been reported in seven other European countries — Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and Britain.