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A dangerous new strain of E. coli is spreading rapidly throughout Europe. Carried in vegetables, the poisonous bacteria, labeled STEC, has already claimed 18 lives. More than 1,600 in 10 European countries are infected.
As a result of the outbreak, European authorities have warned against the consumption of raw vegetables such as cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes.
“Chinese and German scientists analyzed the DNA of the E. coli bacteria and determined that the outbreak was caused by ‘an entirely new, super-toxic’ strain that contains several antibiotic-resistant genes, according to a statement from the Shenzhen, China-based laboratory BGI,” The Associated Press reported.
The outbreak is causing division between several European nations.
Financial Times reported that a bitter “dispute over the origins of the bacterial disease…has worsened the already fragile relationship between Germany and Spain.”
According to the paper, “The accusations, which were unproven and now appear to be unfounded, have not only damaged the important Spanish and Dutch horticultural export industries—forcing angry farmers to throw away unsold produce—they have also deepened Spanish resentment at the attitude of German politicians towards their southern partners in the eurozone.”
Meanwhile, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there had been three suspected cases in people who recently traveled to Hamburg, Germany.
“Symptoms of STEC infection include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (which is often bloody), and vomiting,” the CDC reported. “If there is fever, it usually is not very high. Most people get better within 5–7 days…”
The World Health Organization stated, “Numerous investigations are continuing into the source of the outbreak, which is still unclear.”