msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 6/27/2011 12:54:17 PM ET 2011-06-27T16:54:17

Dutch and British health officials advised people to avoid raw sprouts and seeds Monday after scientists linked an outbreak of E. coli in France to a highly toxic one in Germany that has killed 43 people.

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A British health safety expert said it was very unlikely to be pure coincidence that sprouted salad seeds have been fingered as the probable source of both outbreaks.

France's health minister says experts are "99 percent sure" that the E. coli outbreak that put seven people in the hospital in Bordeaux region is the same strain of bacteria that killed 43 people in Germany. Health officials in the United States are also investigating the death of an Arizona man to see if he was killed by the same strain.

Hospital officials say that in France, three of the seven sickened are on dialysis, while a 78-year-old is in critical condition. Another person was released.

Health Minister Xavier Bertrand said that the strain appears to be the same as the one in Germany.

France halted the sale of fenugreek, mustard and arugula sprout seeds from British mail order seed and plant company Thompson & Morgan. The company says the link is unsubstantiated.

Story: Arizona death may be tied to E. coli outbreak, officials say

German officials attribute deaths there to a sprout farm in northern Germany.

In the U.S., health officials have not yet confirmed that the Arizona man who recently traveled to Germany was killed by the same bacteria responsible for the European outbreak.

The man, who was older than 65, died in mid-June, according to Arizona health officials. The Northern Arizona resident had developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a severe side effect of E. coli infection that can lead to kidney failure, which raised suspicions that his illness was connected to the European outbreak.

If confirmed, the man's death would be the first in the U.S. tied to the outbreak.

The Associated Press, Reuters and msnbc.com's JoNel Aleccia contributed to this report

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