Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

KILLER BUG HITS SEVEN IN BRITAIN; NEW E. COLI STRAIN CLAIMS 17 LIVES; WASH SALAD VEG, SHOPPERS TOLD; Scientists Unable to Find Source of Outbreak

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

KILLER BUG HITS SEVEN IN BRITAIN; NEW E. COLI STRAIN CLAIMS 17 LIVES; WASH SALAD VEG, SHOPPERS TOLD; Scientists Unable to Find Source of Outbreak

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Prigg and Peter Dominiczak

SEVEN people in Britain have been infected with a killer mutant form of E.coli that is sweeping Europe, it was revealed today.

Health officials warned that the toxic and virulent strain could lead to the deadliest E.coli outbreak ever seen.

The World Health Organisation issued a global alert over the bug which can cause kidney failure and has already claimed 17 lives.

It is believed contaminated salad vegetables are the cause of the outbreak. Government scientists have ordered shoppers to wash salad vegetables as a precaution. Health Protection Agency officials today said three Britons had been struck down by the bug, as well as four Germans living here.

Russia today became the first country to ban imports of all EU vegetables. Other European nations have adopted bans or partial bans on all salad vegetables.

As the strain hit the British population for the first time, two cases were detected in the US. More than 1,500 people have been infected in nine countries worldwide. WHO food safety expert Hilde Kruse said the "unique strain" had lethal genes that could explain why the Europewide outbreak appeared to be so massive and dangerous. She said: "It has characteristics that make it more virulent and toxin-producing."

Scientists have been unable to pinpoint the source of the outbreak, raising fears that other fruit and vegetables including tomatoes, lettuce, spinach and aubergines could pose a danger.

Scientists say the outbreak is likely to have come from infected manure.

Dr Paul Wigley, from the University of Liverpool's School of Veterinary Science, said: "It is most likely that the use of manure as a fertilizer in organic salad vegetable production has lead to contamination of cucumbers and other vegetables."

Denis Coulombier, of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, said: "It's certainly something we haven't seen before in the EU and probably in the world. …

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