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Berlin, May 26 (PTI) German health authorities are alarmed by the outbreak of a life-threatening stomach infection that has apparently killed three people and is reportedly capable of making most antibiotics inactive.
About 140 patients infected by the Escherichia Coli (EHEC) bowel bacteria are in critical condition in hospitals in northern Germany and at least three deaths have been linked to the bacteria, media reports said.
Health authorities are particularly concerned by the rapid spreading of the infection since the first cases were reported in the states of Schleswig-Holstein and in Hamburg in mid-May.
From there, the virus spread within a short time to the neighbouring states of Bremen and Lower Saxony and reached Frankfurt and the southern state of Bavaria.
"This is really worrying," Ilse Aigner said on ARD public television. "We do not know what is the source (of the poisoning) and we cannot rule out there will be more cases."
Across Germany, mostly in the north, there are hundreds of other suspected cases, including some 200 in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, 100 in Lower Saxony, and in Hamburg close to 50.
Germany is alarmed at the scale of an E. coli food poisoning outbreak which is thought to have killed three people and may have infected hundreds more. At least 80 people ingested EHEC, a dangerous strain of the bacterium, over the past two weeks and there are a further 350 suspected cases. The number of EHEC infections for the whole of 2010 was only about 1,000. This outbreak is affecting young women in particular, and one theory is that it is spread by contaminated salad. While medical tests have yet to establish the exact cause of death, the three suspected victims were all women, two of them in their 80s and the third aged 24.