A decline in the number of new infections in a deadly bacterial outbreak gives reason for hope that the epidemic is abating, Germany’s health minister said yesterday before a crisis meeting with EU and German health officials in Berlin.
“I cannot yet give an all-clear, but after an analysis of the numbers there’s reason for hope,” Germany Health Minister Daniel Bahr told ARD Television. “The numbers are continuously falling — which nonetheless means that there can still be new cases and that one unfortunately has to expect new deaths too — but overall new infections are clearly going down.”
EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli, who was to attend the crisis meeting in Berlin, demanded that German health authorities work more closely with international experts in fighting the E. coli epidemic, which has killed 24 people and infected 2,325 in Germany, and more than 100 in other European countries and the US.
“We have to utilize the experience and expertise in all of Europe and even outside of Europe,” Dalli told Die Welt newspaper.
Outside health experts and German lawmakers criticized Germany for a bungled investigation into the world’s deadliest E. coli outbreak, saying the infections should have been spotted much sooner.
Weeks after the outbreak began on May 2, German officials are still looking for its cause. Spanish cucumbers were initially blamed, then ruled out after tests showed they had a different strain of E. coli. On Sunday, investigators pointed the finger at German sprouts, only to backtrack a day later when initial tests were negative. The sprouts are still being tested.
Bahr reiterated that the source of the infection might never been found.
A warning against eating cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and vegetable sprouts is still in place.
Frightened and confused consumers continued to avoid vegetables and fruit in general — with grocery stores in Germany reporting losses of 30 to 40 percent in sales of fresh produce, Bild daily said.
In China, authorities ordered stepped-up health inspections for travelers arriving from Germany to prevent the super-toxic strain from reaching its shores.
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Investigation and Quarantine said in a notice yesterday that authorities should strengthen temperature and medical checks of travelers from Germany.
Those experiencing nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea or fever should declare themselves to authorities or if already in the country, seek medical attention immediately, it said.