September 12, 2018 / 3:05 PM / in a month

Egypt prosecutor says e-coli was factor in deaths of British tourists

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s public prosecutor said on Wednesday that e-coli bacteria were a factor in the deaths of two British tourists in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada last month.

FILE PHOTO: A view of the Red Sea resort of Hurghada, Egypt, August 20, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

The prosecutor said John Cooper, 69, was suffering from health problems but that e-coli caused gastroenteritis and heart failure which killed him. Cooper’s wife Susan, 63, was also likely to have been affected by e-coli and died of Hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), a blood ailment.

It gave the details in a statement of an official medical report after an investigation into their deaths.

Thomas Cook, which the couple was travelling with, moved 300 customers from the hotel they were staying in, the Steigenberger Aqua Magic, following the deaths on Aug. 21.

The British tour operator said it had taken note of the prosecutor’s announcement. “We have not yet seen the full report and we will need time for our own experts to review it,” it said in a statement.

Thomas Cook said earlier this month that it had found a high level of e-coli and staphylococcus bacteria at the hotel they were staying in.

Local Egyptian officials initially said the Coopers both died of heart attacks, but the public prosecutor ordered an investigation.

Egypt’s tourism ministry said it would look at the postmortem “to determine our next course of action to look after the welfare of ... visitors”. It did not elaborate.

Tourism in Egypt has struggled since a 2011 popular uprising and the unrest that followed it, including the bombing of a Russian passenger jet in 2015 and the accidental killing of Mexican tourists by Egyptian forces the same year.

Tourist revenues rose in Egypt this year with improved security conditions in the country, but numbers are still well below the more than 14 million tourist arrivals in 2010. Arrivals stood at around 5 million in the first half of 2018, a government official told Reuters last month.

Reporting by Haitham Ahmed, Omar al-Fahmy, John Davison; additional reporting by Andy Bruce in London, Editing by John Stonestreet/Mark Heinrich

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