The latest E. coli outbreak that has claimed 18 deaths and almost 2,000 others infected continues to rampage Europe. Germany, where the outbreak began and accounts for most of the deaths and number of people that have fallen ill, is now moving fast to determine the source of the outbreak.

A German task force was set up with the objective of hunting the source of the E-coli 0104 bacteria, which the World Health Organization (WHO) described as a strain that has “never been seen before.” Earlier reports linked the outbreak to cucumbers imported from Spain. Germany’s agriculture ministry, however, has already cleared the Spanish cucumbers as the source based on the tests they conducted.

With the Spanish cucumbers cleared from any suspicion, the question remains as to which foodstuffs are safe to eat and which are not. Others have expressed their concern about eating raw vegetables especially salad ingredients such as tomatoes and lettuce. Meanwhile, the Sweden-based European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDPC) has stated that the bacterium is usually found in cattle and is normally transmitted through contaminated food or water and contact with infected animals.

The crisis has already sparked trade tensions between the European Union and Russia. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has dismissed protests by the EU after Russia placed a ban on European vegetable imports saying “we can’t poison our people” just to keep the spirit of the World Trade Organization.

US health officials have already confirmed that four Americans have fallen ill due to the infection. Three of them are now hospitalized for kidney failure, a serious complication resulting from E. coli. Three of the four were in Germany last month although reports indicate that they stayed and ate in different places. The fourth victim only met with the other three on the flight back to the US.

British health officials likewise announced that they have detected a total of 11 Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) cases in the UK. They also added that all the patients recently traveled to Germany. EHEC is another strain of E. coli characterized by diarrhea, fever, and severe stomach cramps. However, most of those who have suffered this kind of strain normally recover after a few days.

Scientists from Germany announced that they have decoded the genes of the new E. coli strain and they concluded that it is made of a new hybrid form that is lethal to humans. In an effort to contain the outbreak, the German public is temporarily discouraged from eating raw vegetables. A number of clinics have already appealed for more blood donations given the increasing number of people infected by the deadly strain.