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Bean Sprouts Likely Source of Europe's E. coli Outbreak That Killed 22

A woman holds bean sprouts with chopsticks in Berlin, Germany, June 5, 2011
A woman holds bean sprouts with chopsticks in Berlin, Germany, June 5, 2011

Officials in Germany say they believe the deadly E.coli outbreak that has killed 22 people in Germany and Sweden is linked to locally grown bean sprouts.

Lower Saxony state agriculture minister Gert Lindemann told reporters Sunday that definitive test results will be available Monday. He recommended that people in northern Germany stop eating bean sprouts immediately.

He said a company in the Uelzen region has been shut down as the likely source of the contamination.

Earlier Sunday, health authorities reported the deaths of an additional three people in Germany, bringing the death toll to 22. Except for one woman who died in Sweden after a visit to Germany, all of the fatalities have been within German borders.

Health authorities say about 2,000 people, most of them in Germany, have been infected.  Ten other European nations and the United States have reported 90 infected people, nearly all of whom have recently been in northern Germany.

The outbreak is the deadliest in modern history to involve E. coli, and appears to be the second- or third-largest in terms of the number of people who have become ill.   Scientists say the bacteria is a previously unknown genetic recombination of two different E. coli strains.

Symptoms of E. coli infection include stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever and vomiting.

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