Germany: Ten die from E.coli-infected cucumbers

Spanish cucumbers, file pic It is unclear whether the cucumbers were infected at source or in transit

The death toll in Germany from an outbreak of E.coli caused by infected cucumbers has risen to at least 10.

The cucumbers, believed to have been imported from Spain, were contaminated with E.coli which left people ill with hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS).

Hundreds of people are said to have fallen sick.

Officials in the Czech Republic said the cucumbers may also have been exported there, as well as to Austria, Hungary and Luxembourg.

Adults at risk

The aggressive form of E.coli is known to cause kidney failure and affect the central nervous system.

Most of the cases have been in the area around Hamburg.

The Sweden-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said this outbreak was "one of the largest described of HUS worldwide and the largest ever reported in Germany".

It said: "While HUS cases are usually observed in children under five years of age, in this outbreak 87% are adults, with a clear predominance of women (68%)."

HUS cases have also been reported in Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK - linked to German travel.

A scientist from Munster university, Helge Karch, warned that the spread of infection was not over.

"It is possible that there will be secondary infections during this outbreak as well. These secondary infections work from man to man and they can be avoided. That's why we have to do everything possible for better personal hygiene."

Czech authorities said the European Union's rapid warning system had told them of an importation of the cucumbers into the Czech Republic.

Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority spokesman Michal Spacil told Agence France-Presse: "The Germans said the cucumbers were also distributed to Hungary, Austria and Luxembourg."

Spain has announced restrictions on two suspected exporters.

It is unclear whether the cucumbers were infected at source or in transit.

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