Total hit by outbreak of E.coli nears 2,000

More than 1,800 people across the globe have been infected in a toxic E.coli outbreak.

Some 18 people have been confirmed dead, 17 of them in Germany, where the outbreak began.

Almost 200 new cases have been reported in Germany in the last few days, and people in 12 countries have fallen ill.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

According to the World Health Organisation, 1,823 cases have been identified globally, including 1,733 in Germany.

Around one in three of those affected have been hit by haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) – a deadly complication of E.coli which affects the blood, kidneys and, in severe cases, the central nervous system. Eleven people in the UK – three Britons and four German nationals – are being treated, including three for HUS.

In the UK, the Health Protection Agency is urging people travelling to Germany to avoid eating raw tomatoes, cucumbers and leafy salad, including lettuce.

Anyone returning from Germany with an illness, including bloody diarrhoea, should also seek medical attention.

The infection has not been seen before. Analysis at the Beijing Genomics Institute showed the bacterium is an enterohemorrhagic E.coli O104 strain, but is a “new serotype not previously involved in any E.coli outbreaks”.

Experts in Germany said there were signs that the infection could be slowing but warned there would be more cases.

Most of the recent cases are among people from northern Germany or those who have visited the area, where experts are trying to find the source of the outbreak.

Scientists believe salad vegetables and leaves may be to blame.

The bug has now been identified in people in the Czech Republic, France and the United States, as well as Germany, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

Experts have warned people to follow good hygiene, including washing hands, to avoid spreading E.coli.