Berlin: 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.
The symptoms include severe stomach pain and diarrhea and if untreated, the infection can lead to kidney failure and loss of haemoglobin from red blood cells.
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.
Health authorities estimate than over 600 people have so far been infected across the country, but media reports said their number could be much higher because nation-wide statistics are still not available.
Even though infections caused by EHEC bacteria occur every year, the current contagion is caused by a strain which never surfaced before, according to the health experts.