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A nurse in a hospital
The outbreak has killed 19 people in Germany and SwedenImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Bacteria battle

June 3, 2011

The death toll in Germany's E. coli outbreak has risen to 19, as the infection is confirmed in 11 other countries. A Hamburg doctor, however, has said the outbreak seems to be stabilizing.


The death toll in Germany's E. coli outbreak has now risen to 19, following the death of an 80-year-old woman in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on Friday.

Eighteen of the victims have been in Germany, with one fatality reported in Sweden.

Earlier in the day, the World Health Organization announced that the outbreak had spread from Germany to 11 other countries, including the United States and Britain.

However, a German doctor has cautioned that the situation seems to be normalizing.

"The number of new infections appears to be stabilizing somewhat," Reinhard Brunkhorst, president of the German Nephrology Society, told reporters in Hamburg, where the outbreak is centered.

However, Brunkhorst admitted that the fatalities were part of "the biggest epidemic caused by bacteria in recent decades." Regional health authorities have reported more than 2,000 cases of people stricken with EHEC poisoning.

No reason to panic

A scientist holds a test vial
Scientists are puzzled as to the source of the outbreakImage: dapd

Meanwhile, scientists have failed to support the hypothesis that contaminated vegetables were the source of the deadly bacteria.

"Alarmism over the consumption of vegetables is not justified," the EU's Reference Laboratory for E. coli in Rome said in a statement on Friday, adding that laboratory analyses did not support the hypothesis that contaminated vegetables were the source of the infection.

The outbreak has also prompted worries that blood plasma, needed to treat infected patients, could run out, a fear the German Red Cross has tried to allay.

Friedrich-Ernst Düppe, of the German Red Cross Blood Donation Service, emphasized that while donations were welcome, there was "no reason to panic."

Author: Sarah Harman (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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