Eighty-five per cent of Germans are eating raw cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce again, according to a survey published by the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, as fears of catching E coli from the vegetables begin to recede.

Germany initially blamed Spanish cucumbers for the E coli outbreak, but sprouts were later identified as having spread the EHEC bacteria. So far, 39 people have died -- 38 of them in Germany.

The Emnid Institute, which conducts social research, interviewed 500 people aged 14 and above for the survey.

Three weeks ago, in a similar survey, 58 per cent of Germans had said they were avoiding raw cucumbers, tomatoes and salad.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman from the state of Hesse’s Social Affairs Ministry said no new infections had been reported after the bacteria was also found Friday in a creek in the town of Erlenbach, just outside the city of Frankfurt.

It was thought the bacteria had possibly found its way into the creek from a nearby sewage works. Two nearby farms that were using water from the creek to water potatoes have now been banned from doing so.

Officials also reported Friday the first-known human transfer of the infection -- a kitchen employee had unwittingly been spreading the germ on food, having caught it herself from sprouts.

She later developed the most severe form of EHEC infection, haemolytic-uraemic syndrome, in which the kidneys and nervous system fail and patients often suffer epileptic fits.