COPENHAGEN, May 29 (Xinhua) -- Danish cucumbers are suspected of helping spread the E. coli bacteria believed to be triggering a deadly outbreak of intestinal infection in Denmark and Germany, local media reported Sunday.
School authorities in the Danish city of Odense said up to 1,500 children may have been exposed to the bacteria after eating cucumbers of Danish origin at a school festival on Friday, the local Fyns Times reported.
The cucumbers came from a Danish wholesaler which also delivers farm products to a German supplier where vegetables contaminated by the E. coli bacteria have been found earlier this week.
The Danish cucumbers were mixed in Germany with cucumbers originating in the Netherlands, making it difficult to determine if Danish cucumbers are in fact contaminated.
According to Denmark's National Serum Institute, there are nine confirmed cases, with at least another eight people suspected of having the intestinal infection, also known as VTEC, in Denmark.
Four of the confirmed cases show symptoms of kidney failure which marks an advanced stage of the sickness, the institute said Saturday.
The food-borne infection can be caused by eating raw or uncooked foods such as vegetables contaminated with the E. coli bacteria.
Symptoms of infection include mild fever, bloody diarrhea and vomiting, and can last 5 to 7 days. It can prove fatal in the very young, sick, or elderly.
The Odense school authorities have advised parents to monitor the affected children for signs of the infection.
Denmark's Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA) said earlier that the suspicion against Danish cucumber was "vague," but advised Danish consumers not to eat raw tomato, lettuce and cucumber from Germany, and cucumber from Spain.
It is now checking Danish cucumbers for traces of E. coli, with results expected on Tuesday.
The outbreak is said to have originated from a batch of German lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, and a batch of Spanish cucumbers.
Some Danish retailers have now removed these products from their supermarket shelves. And the Danish branch of fast-food chain McDonald's said Saturday that it was dropping fresh cucumber from its menu until further notice.
According to German media, the infection has ravaged northern Germany in recent days, where it has caused eight confirmed deaths as of Saturday, while affecting up to 1,000 people.
All the confirmed Danish victims are said to have recently visited northern Germany, where the outbreak first occurred.