German cucumbers E.coli.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer)
WASHINGTON - Two US military personnel based in Germany are suspected of having a dangerous strain of the E.coli bacteria that has so far killed 19 people in Europe, US health officials said on Friday.
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The US Food and Drug Administration is inspecting shipments of Spanish and German vegetables to the United States but a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) official said there was no expectation the outbreak would spread to the United States.
"Two US service members in Germany with the illness are being evaluated as suspect cases," said Chris Braden, director of the foodborne, waterborne and environmental disease unit at the CDC.
The highly toxic strain has already killed 18 people in Germany and one in Sweden, and sickened more than 1,700 others, in possibly the deadliest such outbreak ever recorded.
"US produce remains safe, and there is no reason for Americans to alter their (consumption) habits," said David Elder, the FDA's Director of Regional Operations.
Some 199 new cases of the rare strain of E.coli bacteria have been reported in the past two days.
The source of the outbreak is unknown, but scientists say the E.coli strain is highly likely to have originated in contaminated vegetables or salad in Germany. Raw vegetables have been known to harbor E.coli when they are grown with fertilizer using cattle manure.
Three US adults have already been hospitalized with what officials believe is the same strain of the bacteria after they traveled to northern Germany in May, the CDC said late on Thursday.
The World Health Organization has said the E.coli strain, known as 0104:H4, was a rare one, seen in humans before, but never in this kind of outbreak.