More E.coli deaths expected but spread of epidemic is slowing

The death toll from the E.coli outbreak is expected to rise although the number of new infections from the virulent strain of bacteria that has killed 24 people is likely to drop, the German government said yesterday.

"There will be new cases and unfortunately we have to expect more deaths, but the number of new infections is dropping significantly," Health Minister Daniel Bahr said. "I can't sound the all-clear, but after analysing the latest data we have reasonable cause for hope," he added. The German government has been criticised for its failure to find the cause of the outbreak that has struck more than 2,400 people in 12 countries. All cases have been traced back to the Hamburg area.

The European Union's health chief John Dalli, at a crisis meeting with officials in Berlin, urged Germany to seek the help of international experts in dealing with what may be the deadliest outbreak of E.coli so far. But Mr Bahr rejected separate calls for a national "epidemic police". He said it was "typically German" to call for a new authority every time there is a fresh crisis.

The EU faces compensation costs of more than €150m (£134m) for farmers hit by plummeting sales of raw vegetables, after Germany first blamed cucumbers from Spain and other salad vegetables, and then German bean sprouts.

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