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EHEC contained

July 26, 2011

After an outbreak of a deadly strain of E. coli that killed over 50 people in Germany, the country's health institute has said enough time has passed since the last recorded infection to indicate the end of the epidemic.

E. coli bacteria
Health officials will be watchful for EHEC's returnImage: picture-alliance/dpa

It has been three weeks since the last case of Enterohaemorrhagic Escerichia coli (EHEC) has been reported in Germany, leading the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) to declare the deadly E. coli epidemic over.

The RKI is Germany's federal disease control institute, and in a statement released on Tuesday, it said that three weeks covered the incubation period of the EHEC bacteria.

The epidemic, which peaked in late May, was mostly contained to northern Germany, although cases of infection were reported in other parts of Europe as well. In total, over 4,000 people became sick due to the virulent bacteria strain, and 52 people died. All but two of the deaths were recorded in Germany.

Deadly veggies

A batch of fenugreek seeds from Egypt were determined to be the source of the outbreak. The seeds were used to grow bean sprouts, which had been eaten by most of the victims.

Initially it was thought that cucumbers imported from Spain had caused the EHEC outbreak, but this later proved to be incorrect. However, the Spanish produce industry did suffer as a result of its association with the EHEC outbreak, which led to tensions between Germany and Spain.

At the height of the outbreak, Russia had also issued a blanket-ban on all EU-imported produce, but this has since been rolled back.

Reinhard Burger, head of the RKI, said it had been the "biggest outbreak of E. coli in Germany."

Author: Matt Zuvela (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Rob Turner

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