FRANKFURT — Germany's top health official said Wednesday that the deadly E. coli outbreak appeared to be waning as local authorities defended their handling of the crisis.
At least 2,743 people have been stricken by E. coli since May 2, up from 2,429 Tuesday, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said Wednesday. The bacteria have caused 25 deaths, an increase of two since Tuesday, the Stockholm-based agency said.
The outbreak's cause may never be found, Health Minister Daniel Bahr said at a news conference. The Robert Koch Institute, Germany's disease-control agency, repeated that people shouldn't eat lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and salad ingredients such as vegetable sprouts.
"It's not the time yet to sound the all-clear, but after the analysis of figures and data at the Robert Koch Institute there's reason for justified optimism that the worst is behind us," Bahr said Wednesday in Berlin.
German officials have been struggling to pin down the source of the infections for several weeks and have come under fire for delays as well as twice pointing to a cause for the outbreak too hastily.
Germany initially blamed Spanish cucumbers, and on Sunday officials said sprouts from an organic farm played a role in the outbreak.
EU nations reported 722 people have developed a potentially fatal kidney complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome after being infected with E. coli, the agency said Wednesday. That's up from 674 cases.