Beansprout, new E.coli suspect

German Health Minister Daniel Bahr puts on gloves and a mask during his visit at the University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf in Hamburg, northern Germany, on Sunday, June 5, 2011.
German-grown bean sprouts could be the source of the deadly E.coli outbreak that has killed 22 people in Europe and infected at least four in US.

The news came from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), as three new victims were confirmed dead, making the total number 22. Only one of the victims is Swedish, while the remaining are Germans, AFP reported.

Further, over 2,200 people are still ill across a dozen countries in Europe and the US and German hospitals are currently flooded by E. coli victims. Some reports from the city of Hamburg indicated that hospitals are rejecting patients with less serious illnesses, due to their high number of patients.

The test results released, showed that at least one of the sources for the E. coli outbreak, originated from a farm in the outskirts of Lueneburg, in northern Germany, producing beansprouts.

Two of the employees at the farm had fallen ill. Sprouts are grown in “temperatures of 37 degrees Celsius which is ideal for all bacteria,” Gert Lindermann, the agriculture minister from the German state of Lower-Saxony, said.

Lindemann emphasized that the new findings were preliminary and definitive test results should be available Monday.

According to the report, bean sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, mung bean sprouts, radish sprouts and arugula sprouts from the farm might be connected to the outbreak.

Beansprouts from the farm were delivered either directly or through wholesalers, to restaurants in Hamburg, Hessen, Mecklenburg-Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein and Lower-Saxony, Authorities said.

German officials had previously suggested that Spanish cucumbers might be the primary source of the outbreak that has killed 21 in Germany and one in Sweden by far but further tests showed that the Spanish cucumbers did not contain the deadly strain called ST131.

The latest report came three weeks after the beginning of the widespread infections and fears among agricultural products consumers in Germany and the EU.

Health facilities in Hamburg, Germany’s second city and the center of the outbreak are struggling to manage the flow of patients, Health Minister Daniel Bahr said.

“Food health officials are working around the clock to identify the source of the infection,” Bahr added.

However, the health crisis has crossed the Atlantic Ocean and reached the US as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that 4 Americans visited Germany during the outbreak have become infected.

Three of the cases have been hospitalized due to serious complication and the officials are investigating for more possible victims, said CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell.


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