Death Toll Rises in Europe’s E. Coli Outbreak

Posted June 4th, 2011 at 1:40 am (UTC-5)
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The death toll in Europe from the outbreak of a virulent strain of E. coli bacteria rose to 19 Friday when another person in Germany succumbed to the infection.

All of the deaths from the outbreak have been in Germany, except for one woman who died in Sweden after a visit to Germany.

Health authorities say about 2,000 people, most of them in Germany, have been infected. Ten other European nations and the United States have reported 90 infected people, nearly all of whom have recently been in northern Germany.

The president of the German Nephrology Society told reporters Friday in Hamburg, where the outbreak is centered, that the number of new infections seems to be stabilizing.

The World Health Organization cautioned against the random use of antibiotics and other medications. It urged people to quickly seek medical help, as the highly contagious bacteria can cause acute kidney failure.

The source of the bacteria has not been identified.

But Germany's health agency Friday advised against eating raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuces, particularly in northern Germany.

German officials initially blamed imported Spanish produce for the deadly outbreak, sparking a sharp rebuke from Spanish officials.

The World Health Organization does not recommend any produce trade restrictions related to the outbreak.

The outbreak is the deadliest in modern history to involve E. coli, and appears to be the second- or third-largest in terms of the number of people who have become ill. Scientists say the bacteria is a previously unknown genetic recombination of two different E. coli strains.

Symptons of E. coli infection include stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever and vomiting.