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Authorities are still struggle to find the source of the infected vegetables while more people are getting sick. German scientists remain baffled over the origin of the particular strain of E. Coli bacteria currently being registered because of its particularly vicious symptoms. Normally, young children and elderly people are most vulnerable to the bacteria but the recent outbreak has hit predominantly young adult females – and the scientists don’t know why.
A new report by Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) for University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf has determined that the bacteria is a completely new and extremely infectious strain of E. Coli with no previously recorded outbreaks. However, there is a 93% convergence between the current European bacteria and the one that caused severe diarrhea in the Central African Republic according to Berlingske Tidende, a Danish Daily.
The research also suggest that the strain is difficult to treat with antibiotics but the team behind the report are still working on tangible ways of effectively treat the victims and stop the spread of the bacteria. Meanwhile, doctors and researchers are forced to conduct basic scientific detective work, which according to the BBC amounts to “simply asking all the surviving victims what they ate and when they ate it, and them comparing notes to find a pattern.”
Seventeen people have died so far, counting 16 Germans and a Swedish woman. Almost 370 new cases were reported Wednesday including two in the US who had returned from a trip to Hamburg, Germany. The northern city seems to be the capital of the outbreak.
German authorities have had to withdraw the claim that infected vegetables came from Spain after the suspected farmers have been cleared. They are now saying it could take months before the outbreak is under control because tracking down the real source will be close to impossible. “We may never know” said Reinhard Burger, president of the Robert Kock Institute to the BBC.
The allegation that the infected vegetables originated in Spain has hit their national export hard and loss of earnings is estimated at more than €200M per week for affected farmers. The Spanish government have stated they will seek compensation for Germany’s wrong accusations.
Meanwhile, Russia has banned the import of all fresh vegetables from the European Union as a result of E. Coli (EHEC) risk – a move which the EU has called “disproportionate.” According to European Commission spokesman Frediric Vincent, the Union will be lodging a protest. The BBC Moscow correspondent Daniel Sandford informs that Russia is the single biggest export market for European farmers which makes the ban detrimental. However, the head of Russia’s consumer protection agency Gennady Onishchenko has criticized the EU for their food safety standards, arguing that their “lauded health legislation” is ineffective.
Financially, a country which have been tainted with suspicion – such as Spain – could face a complete trade collapse. A professor in Psychology at the University of Copenhagen told Berlingske Tidende that “cucumber hysteria” could haunt consumers and sales for a long time – in many cases without real cause for concern.
Cases of infection have been reported in a total of nine European countries but virtually all the sick people either lived or recently travelled in Germany.
Why young women are most vulnerable to the outbreak, which has caused serious infections, diarrhea and affected blood, kidneys and the central nervous system, is still a mystery. One theory was that victims were more likely to choose healthier food options but the inclination of young females to eat salads was soon dismissed as too weak an explanation. Dr Ulf Goebel of the Charity university hospital in Berlin, Germany has argued that the bacterial strain might be genetically more ‘suitable’ for women in the same way other viruses are linked to ethnicity. However, Dr Dylis Morgan from the British Health Protection Agency has added: “It’s very unusual for adults to have Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome [an otherwise unusual complication of E. Coli]” but not for the victims of the recent outbreak.
The number of infected victims has officially passed 1500 across Europe.