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Danish cucumber scare subsides but E. coli infections persist

06-01-2011 20:17 BJT Special Report:EU Struggles with E. Coli Outbreak |

COPENHAGEN,, June 1 (Xinhua) -- Danish authorities have said cucumbers produced in the country were free of E.coli but it was unclear when the outbreak of infections caused by the harmful bacteria would end.

"We have the results from our laboratory and there is no E.coli in the Danish cucumbers we have analyzed," Kim Vandrup Sigsgaard, head of food emergencies at Denmark's Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA), told Xinhua Tuesday.

"We have been able to get some cucumbers from the lot that was suspected. We have also been taking samples from production from other Danish batches, and the results were negative all around," Sigsgaard added.

Several hundred cases of severe intestinal infection caused by E.coli bacteria have been reported in northern Europe in the past week.

German authorities suspected Danish cucumbers as a source of the outbreak as several people contracted the infection after eating at a restaurant in Hamburg, Germany, where cucumbers originating from both Denmark and the Netherlands were served.

This statement from the Danish authorities should cheer up Danish growers who produce some 250,000 cucumbers per day.

They were losing up to half a million Danish kroners (about 100,000 U.S. dollars) worth of sales daily owing to the outbreak, said Torben Lippert, a consultant at Danish Horticulture, an industry association.

"Sales were low because buyers were nervous ... We hope we have seen the high-point of the outbreak and are anxious to know the origin and reason of the problem," he told Xinhua Tuesday.

However, these answers may not be easily forthcoming.

"It is very hard to predict when the outbreak will be over because we do not know the exact source of the outbreak," said Kaare Moelbak, an expert in epidemiology at Copenhagen's National Serum Institute, a medical research institute.

"If it is a source that continues to distribute contaminated products, there will be a long tail on this outbreak," he told Xinhua in an interview Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, there were 14 confirmed cases and 26 suspected ones of E. coli infection in Denmark.

In neighboring Germany, where the outbreak started, there were about 1,200 confirmed and suspected cases, and at least 14 people reported dead. Cases have also been reported in Sweden and Spain.

Nearly all the confirmed cases are thought to have recently travelled to northern Germany, Moelbak said.

The infection, which is food-borne, can be caused by eating raw foods such as vegetables contaminated with the E.coli bacteria. Symptoms include mild fever, bloody diarrhea and vomit.

Although usually affecting the very young, Moelbak said 88 percent of those affected by the current outbreak are above the age of 20. Moreover, 373 cases of kidney failure have been registered in Germany.

"This is a rare disease that usually affects young children. So both the number of kidney failures and the age distribution tell us that this is a very unusual situation," he said.

While it is unclear how the contamination occurred, the DVFA advises Danish consumers "not to eat raw tomato, cucumber or leaf salad from northern Germany and cucumbers from Spain," products suspected to be behind the outbreak.

The fact that these are foods usually preferred by adults than children could explain the tilt toward adult infections, Moelbak said.



Editor:Zheng Limin |Source: Xinhua

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