EU issues health alert over German E .coli scare

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EU issues health alert over German E .coli scare

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The European Union has issued a health warning amid a consumer food scare gripping Germany where an E. coli outbreak is being blamed for up to four deaths.

Recent visitors to the country are being urged to watch out for possible symptoms. Infections have been reported in travellers from Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden.

German health officials have said cucumbers imported from Spain were one possible source of the outbreak.

Three of four contaminated cucumbers analysed by the Hamburg Institute for Hygiene and the Environment came from Spain, said the state health authorities in Hamburg. The country of origin of the other cucumber is not yet known.

Cucumbers from the affected producers have been pulled from shelves and officials have told people to stop eating cucumbers.

Escherichia coli, or E. coli, bacteria are very common and normally harmless, but a few strains can cause severe illness.

The outbreak began two weeks ago in northern Germany and has since spread to eastern and southern parts of the country.

So far four people have died from infections with a strain of E. coli that health officials say is resistant to most antibiotics. It causes severe stomach upsets and leads to vomiting and diarrhoea.

At least 140 people in Germany have been diagnosed with hemolytic-uremic syndrome which is caused by E. coli and can lead to kidney failure.