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Germany has been the epicenter of the outbreak, with 2,808 sickened, 722 of whom are suffering from a serious complication that can cause kidney failure. The World Health Organization says 97 others have fallen sick in 12 other European countries, as well as three in the United States.
In recent days the numbers of people being reported ill have been dropping, but it was not clear whether the epidemic was waning or consumers were just successfully shunning tainted vegetables.
David Acheson, former chief medical officer of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told NPR's All Things Considered that tests proving the exact source of an E. coli investigation are often elusive, so conclusions have to be drawn from the pattern of the outbreak.
"We, in the U.S., reacted many times appropriately to solid epidemiology without actually having a positive sample, like spinach in 2006, which was obviously a massive E. coli outbreak," he said.
The sprouts were initially blamed for the outbreak on Sunday, but authorities backpedaled the following day after lab tests came in negative and there was not yet enough epidemiological evidence.
During the course of the investigation, non-lethal E. coli was also found on cucumbers from Spain and beet sprouts from the Netherlands.
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