E. coli Death Toll Rises: Cucumbers at Blame?

A deadly E. coli outbreak in Europe that has killed 16 so far seems to be getting worse. The majority of the fatalities have occurred in Germany but the outbreak itself has affected more than 1,000 throughout Europe.

Germany’s national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said 373 people were sick with the most serious complication stemming from the outbreak – hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS. A spokesman for the agency, Susanne Glasmacher, said another 796 people had been affected by another form of the bacteria – enterohaemorrhagic E. coli, or EHEC – making a total of more than 1,150 people infected with that particular strain.

Symptoms of diseases caused by EHEC include abdominal cramps and diarrhea – sometimes bloody – and fever and vomiting.

Last week Germany reported that cucumbers grown in southern Spain, one of Europe’s biggest breadbaskets, were contaminated. Spain was quick to respond in defending themselves and argued that substantial evidence placing the direct blame on them was impossible to pinpoint. According to their argument, the cucumbers (even if from Spanish origin) could have been contaminated anywhere along the supply and handling chain.

The big question is whether or not Americans need to worry about an outbreak in the U.S?

CBS News corresponded with FDA spokesman Siobhan DeLancey via email and was informed that the risk in the U.S. is small due to already established monitoring practices on imports.

What about the risk faced by Americans traveling abroad?

A press officer for the U.S. State Department, Harry G. Edwards, said Americans who get sick while traveling in Europe should immediately alert a U.S. embassy or consulate.

via CBS