Health and Consumer Affairs Commissioner John Dalli this morning appealed to EU consumers not to panic as a consequence of the outbreak of E.coli and said that the Commission all that it could possibly do to identify the source of this contamination.

Earlier indications that the source of this outbreak were Spanish cucumbers has proved to be wrong. At the same time, Commissioner Dalli said that Hamburg, in Germany, has been identified as the epicentre of the outbreak. He stopped short of warning people not to travel to the city.

Commissioner Dalli said that although nine people died due to this bacterial contamination, there were indications that the disease was subsiding as less people were admitted to hospital in the past hours.

"We are awaiting further results. However, there is no cause of alarm as the outbreak is concentrated in Hamburg and the surrounding areas and all those contaminated are connected to this area."

Commissioner Dalli said that according to the latest information reaching Brussels, the E.coli (STEC) outbreak is responsible for ninedeaths in Germany and one in Sweden.

In Germany, 1,169 cases have been recorded, included 373 which developed the Haemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS).

Sweden has reported 41 STEC, 15 of which developed HUS, Denmark 14 STEC cases (six with HUS), the Netherlands seven cases (three HUS), France six STEC cases, the UK reported three cases (two HUS), Austria reported two STEC cases and Spain one case.

Switzerland has also reported two STEC cases.

"Citizens are advised to apply common hygiene rules to limit the risk of contamination: fruit and vegetables need to be washed thoroughly. Wash your hands before preparing food or eating, and after using the bathroom or changing diapers. Wash thoroughly knives, plates and other utensils," Commissioner Dalli advised.

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