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Entries in Europe (11)

Saturday
Jun042011

E. Coli Outbreak in Europe Is the Deadliest in History

Duncan Smith/Thinkstock(GENEVA, Switzerland) -- The rapidly developing European E. coli outbreak that has killed 18 people and sickened thousands, including four suspected cases in the United States, has become the deadliest outbreak of E. coli in modern history.

Where exactly people are being infected with the disease is still unknown, although 17 people fell ill after eating in the northern German city of Luebeck in May, according to the local media. Researchers from Germany's national disease control center are inspecting the restaurant in question.

Other health experts suspect the disease first spread in May at a festival in the northern German city of Hamburg that was visited by 1.5 million people. But as of yet, there is no concrete proof that either site is the cause of the outbreak.

In a briefing Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the four suspected cases in the United States are all people who likely contracted the infection while in northern Germany in May and brought it back to the United States. Three of the victims are hospitalized with hemolytic-uremic syndrome and the fourth reported bloody diarrhea consistent with the outbreak strain of E. coli.

Two American military service members stationed in Germany are also suspected cases. The CDC said both of them have a similar diarrheal illness.

Government officials stressed that the outbreak has not affected the United States directly.

The Food and Drug Administration is monitoring lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers from Spain and Germany based on information it has received from European investigators. Produce from those countries accounts for less than 0.2 percent of produce imported into the United States every year.

The FDA says it is also stepping up its food safety regulations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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