A worker in the toxicology department at the chemicalexamination office in Stuttgart runs tests on bean sprouts in the southern German town of Fellbach.
A worker in the toxicology department at the chemicalexamination office in Stuttgart runs tests on bean sprouts in the southern German town of Fellbach.

Source of Germany's deadly E coli outbreak may never be discovered



HAMBURG // Even if Germany finds the source of the E coli outbreak that has infected thousands of people since early May, it may be too late for Erika.

The 66-year-old chain smokes on the grounds of a Hamburg hospital as she waits to learn if an apparently healthy salad has given her a rare and deadly disease.

"I had prepared a salad with cucumbers and tomatoes," recalls Erika, whose husband died late last year and who asked not to be identified by her full name because the symptoms she has developed are embarrassing. "I peeled the cucumbers but I did not wash them first."

She fell ill on May 19 with bloody diarrhoea. A few days later she heard about the outbreak on the radio and went to see a specialist. By then she was suffering from stomach cramps too.

Erika was sent to the university clinic for tests which showed she is one of 2,300 people infected by the outbreak of E. coli. Soon she will learn if she is one of more than 660 to develop haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) where the bacteria attacks the kidneys and nervous system, gives its victims fits and often forces them onto dialysis.

The deadliest outbreak of its type on record has so far killed 25 people - almost all of them in Germany. Striking suddenly in May, the crisis has doctors struggling to explain the outbreak and public health authorities in one of Europe's most famously organised countries stumped as to how to manage it and how to stop it happening again. As the outbreak enters its second month, plenty of questions remain, not least of which is: if the Germans can't manage an outbreak, who can?

The first case in Germany's E. coli outbreak was reported on May 1. Soon an average of nine cases a day were being reported, rising to 122 cases on May 23 alone.

At first, German officials blamed cucumbers, specifically, Spanish cucumbers. Within days, though, investigators had ruled out the vegetable and started looking closer to home. Chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to explain Germany's actions to an irate Spanish prime minister and Spanish farmers later said they might sue for damages.

Germany's main centre for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), deployed 10 teams to outbreak hotspots such as restaurants and canteens and to ask patients exactly what they ate for each course. To double check the data, customers of these establishments who did not fall ill have been interviewed too. Officials have also sifted through the contents of rubbish bins and fridges and sent some of their contents for analysis.

Specialists working around the clock at RKI headquarters in Berlin cross-check the data looking for what the institute's president, Reinhard Burger, called a "common denominator". So far that's been raw vegetables.

After a few days the search took scientists to the Kartoffelkeller (Potato Cellar) restaurant in Luebeck, north-east of Hamburg. The former medieval hospital offers traditional fare based on meat and potatoes. On May 13 it had served dinner to a large group of female tax officials. Then 17 people who had eaten there fell sick - and one of the tax officers died.

The owner Joachim Berger said health inspectors turned the place upside down without finding anything and when Reuters visited at lunchtime on June 4, the Kartoffelkeller was open for business and full. None of his staff had become ill, Mr Berger said. "Everything has been re-disinfected and inspected, but it's clear nobody here is sick, and we all eat the food ourselves."

But public health officials believed they were on the right track. On June 5, Lower Saxony state agriculture minister Gert Lindemann said a "really hot lead" pointed to sprout varieties (alfalfa, mung bean, radish and arugula) from a supplier that sold the Kartoffelkeller its vegetables. Johanna Tramma at the Fruchthof, a family firm in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, said her sprouts had come from a farm in Lower Saxony which also supplied Hamburg's wholesale market.

Perhaps the E coli detectives should have focused in on sprouts more quickly. An outbreak in Japan in 1996, which killed 11 people, was traced to a similar source, and a US outbreak in 1997 came from alfalfa sprouts.

Officials rushed to the Gaertnerhof farm in the town of Bienenbuettel in Lower Saxony. The farm's owner, Klaus Verbeck, told a local paper - before retreating behind a fence patrolled by security guards - that the Gaertnerhof had been growing organic sprouts for 25 years and was given a clean bill of health for E coli as recently as the second half of May.

In many ways the bean sprout theory sounds likely. Scientists say the steamy temperatures at which sprouts are cultivated are an ideal incubation ground for microbes.

But the sprouts may not be the culprits. Evidence so far is circumstantial and the first tests on suspect sprouts from Lower Saxony have been inconclusive, said the regional agriculture ministry.

The exact source may never be pinned down.

At the RKI, Mr Burger said: "We can't rule out that the source of the outbreak cannot be retraced anymore. That's not unusual in these circumstances," adding that the original source of the infection may no longer exist.

Expert input

If you had all the money in the world, what’s the one sneaker you would buy or create?

“There are a few shoes that have ‘grail’ status for me. But the one I have always wanted is the Nike x Patta x Parra Air Max 1 - Cherrywood. To get a pair in my size brand new is would cost me between Dh8,000 and Dh 10,000.” Jack Brett

“If I had all the money, I would approach Nike and ask them to do my own Air Force 1, that’s one of my dreams.” Yaseen Benchouche

“There’s nothing out there yet that I’d pay an insane amount for, but I’d love to create my own shoe with Tinker Hatfield and Jordan.” Joshua Cox

“I think I’d buy a defunct footwear brand; I’d like the challenge of reinterpreting a brand’s history and changing options.” Kris Balerite

 “I’d stir up a creative collaboration with designers Martin Margiela of the mixed patchwork sneakers, and Yohji Yamamoto.” Hussain Moloobhoy

“If I had all the money in the world, I’d live somewhere where I’d never have to wear shoes again.” Raj Malhotra

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Company profile

Company name: amana
Started: 2010
Founders: Karim Farra and Ziad Aboujeb
Based: UAE
Regulator: DFSA
Sector: Financial services
Current number of staff: 85
Investment stage: Self-funded

Grand slam winners since July 2003

Who has won major titles since Wimbledon 2003 when Roger Federer won his first grand slam

Roger Federer 19 (8 Wimbledon, 5 Australian Open, 5 US Open, 1 French Open)

Rafael Nadal 16 (10 French Open, 3 US Open, 2 Wimbledon, 1 Australian Open)

Novak Djokovic 12 (6 Australian Open, 3 Wimbledon, 2 US Open, 1 French Open)

Andy Murray 3 (2 Wimbledon, 1 US Open)

Stan Wawrinka 3 (1 Australian Open, 1 French Open, 1 US Open)

Andy Roddick 1 (1 US Open)

Gaston Gaudio 1 (1 French Open)

Marat Safin 1 (1 Australian Open)

Juan Martin del Potro 1 (1 US Open)

Marin Cilic 1 (1 US Open)

Indika

Developer: 11 Bit Studios
Publisher: Odd Meter
Console: PlayStation 5, PC and Xbox series X/S
Rating: 4/5

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

In-demand jobs and monthly salaries
  • Technology expert in robotics and automation: Dh20,000 to Dh40,000 
  • Energy engineer: Dh25,000 to Dh30,000 
  • Production engineer: Dh30,000 to Dh40,000 
  • Data-driven supply chain management professional: Dh30,000 to Dh50,000 
  • HR leader: Dh40,000 to Dh60,000 
  • Engineering leader: Dh30,000 to Dh55,000 
  • Project manager: Dh55,000 to Dh65,000 
  • Senior reservoir engineer: Dh40,000 to Dh55,000 
  • Senior drilling engineer: Dh38,000 to Dh46,000 
  • Senior process engineer: Dh28,000 to Dh38,000 
  • Senior maintenance engineer: Dh22,000 to Dh34,000 
  • Field engineer: Dh6,500 to Dh7,500
  • Field supervisor: Dh9,000 to Dh12,000
  • Field operator: Dh5,000 to Dh7,000
Brief scores:

Manchester City 2

Gundogan 27', De Bruyne 85'

Crystal Palace 3

Schlupp 33', Townsend 35', Milivojevic 51' (pen)

Man of the Match: Andros Townsend (Crystal Palace)

Financial considerations before buying a property

Buyers should try to pay as much in cash as possible for a property, limiting the mortgage value to as little as they can afford. This means they not only pay less in interest but their monthly costs are also reduced. Ideally, the monthly mortgage payment should not exceed 20 per cent of the purchaser’s total household income, says Carol Glynn, founder of Conscious Finance Coaching.

“If it’s a rental property, plan for the property to have periods when it does not have a tenant. Ensure you have enough cash set aside to pay the mortgage and other costs during these periods, ideally at least six months,” she says. 

Also, shop around for the best mortgage interest rate. Understand the terms and conditions, especially what happens after any introductory periods, Ms Glynn adds.

Using a good mortgage broker is worth the investment to obtain the best rate available for a buyer’s needs and circumstances. A good mortgage broker will help the buyer understand the terms and conditions of the mortgage and make the purchasing process efficient and easier. 

The specs: 2018 Nissan Patrol Nismo

Price: base / as tested: Dh382,000

Engine: 5.6-litre V8

Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic

Power: 428hp @ 5,800rpm

Torque: 560Nm @ 3,600rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 12.7L / 100km

THE HOLDOVERS

Director: Alexander Payne

Starring: Paul Giamatti, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Dominic Sessa

Rating: 4.5/5

Brahmastra: Part One - Shiva

Director: Ayan Mukerji

Stars: Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Amitabh Bachchan

Rating: 2/5

How does ToTok work?

The calling app is available to download on Google Play and Apple App Store

To successfully install ToTok, users are asked to enter their phone number and then create a nickname.

The app then gives users the option add their existing phone contacts, allowing them to immediately contact people also using the application by video or voice call or via message.

Users can also invite other contacts to download ToTok to allow them to make contact through the app.

 

In Full Flight: A Story of Africa and Atonement
John Heminway, Knopff

Generation Start-up: Awok company profile

Started: 2013

Founder: Ulugbek Yuldashev

Sector: e-commerce

Size: 600 plus

Stage: still in talks with VCs

Principal Investors: self-financed by founder

Results

7pm: Wathba Stallions Cup – Handicap (PA) Dh70,000 (Dirt) 1,600m; Winner: RB Kings Bay, Abdul Aziz Al Balushi (jockey), Helal Al Alawi (trainer)

7.30pm: Maiden (PA) Dh 70,000 (D) 1,600m; Winner: AF Ensito, Fernando Jara, Mohamed Daggash

8pm: Maiden (PA) Dh70,000 (D) 1,400m; Winner: AF Sourouh, Tadhg O’Shea, Ernst Oertel

8.30pm: Maiden (PA) Dh70,000 (D) 1,800m; Winner: Baaher, Fabrice Veron, Eric Lemartinel

9pm: Maiden (PA) Dh70,000 (D) 2,000m; Winner: Mootahady, Antonio Fresu, Eric Lemartinel

9.30pm: Handicap (TB) Dh70,000 (D) 2,000m; Winner: Dubai Canal, Tadhg O’Shea, Satish Seemar

10pm: Al Ain Cup – Prestige (PA) Dh100,000 (D) 2,000m; Winner: Harrab, Bernardo Pinheiro, Majed Al Jahouri

Five calorie-packed Ramadan drinks

Rooh Afza
100ml contains 414 calories
Tang orange drink
100ml serving contains 300 calories
Carob beverage mix
100ml serving contains about 300 calories
Qamar Al Din apricot drink
100ml saving contains 61 calories
Vimto fruit squash
100ml serving contains 30 calories

Company Profile

Name: Neo Mobility
Started: February 2023
Co-founders: Abhishek Shah and Anish Garg
Based: Dubai
Industry: Logistics
Funding: $10 million
Investors: Delta Corp, Pyse Sustainability Fund, angel investors

FROM THE ASHES

Director: Khalid Fahad

Starring: Shaima Al Tayeb, Wafa Muhamad, Hamss Bandar

Rating: 3/5

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Director: Jon Watts

Stars: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon 

Rating:*****

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
TWISTERS

Director:+Lee+Isaac+Chung

Starring:+Glen+Powell,+Daisy+Edgar-Jones,+Anthony+Ramos

Rating:+2.5/5

Specs

Power train: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and synchronous electric motor
Max power: 800hp
Max torque: 950Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Battery: 25.7kWh lithium-ion
0-100km/h: 3.4sec
0-200km/h: 11.4sec
Top speed: 312km/h
Max electric-only range: 60km (claimed)
On sale: Q3
Price: From Dh1.2m (estimate)


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