Urgent warning as dozens in hospital amid UK-wide E.coli outbreak with 113 reported cases

E. Coli
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Dozens of people have been admitted to hospital following an outbreak of E. coli. Reports have been made of 113 people being affected by the bacteria across the country since May 25.

Whole genome sequencing of samples has shown they are all part of the same outbreak, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). In a statement, it added: “Based on the wide geographic spread of cases, it is most likely that this outbreak is linked to a nationally distributed food item or multiple food items.”

The UKHSA said it was working with public health agencies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland to identify the cause of people’s illness. All the cases involve Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O145 (Stec).

So far there have been 81 cases in England, 18 in Wales, 13 in Scotland and one person in Northern Ireland who believes they acquired Stec in England. It has affected people aged from two to 79, but most of those affected are young adults.

These figures are expected to rise. Of the 81 people identified so far in England, 61 have provided information to UKHSA related to food, travel and potential exposures. Of these 61 people, 61% have been admitted to hospital.

E. coli are a diverse group of bacteria that are usually harmless and live in the intestines of humans and animals. However, some strains produce toxins that can make people seriously sick, such as Stec. Symptoms can last up to two weeks in uncomplicated cases.

Some patients, mainly children, may develop haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) which is a serious life-threatening condition resulting in kidney failure. A small proportion of adults may develop a similar condition called thrombotic thrombocytopaenic purpura (TTP).

Stec is often transmitted by eating contaminated food but can also be spread by close contact with an infected person, as well as direct contact with an infected animal or where it lives. The UKHSA said there was currently no evidence linking the outbreak to open farms, drinking water or swimming in contaminated sea, lakes or rivers.

Trish Mannes, incident director at UKHSA, said: “If you have diarrhoea and vomiting, you can take steps to avoid passing it on to family and friends. “NHS.uk has information on what to do if you have symptoms and when to seek medical advice.

“Washing your hands with soap and warm water and using disinfectants to clean surfaces will help stop infections from spreading. If you are unwell with diarrhoea and vomiting, you should not prepare food for others while unwell and avoid visiting people in hospitals or care homes to avoid passing on the infection in these settings. Do not return to work, school or nursery until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped.”

The warning comes as a report into a separate outbreak found the source was likely from minced beef. One person died as reports were made of 26 people being hit by the potentially serious bacteria last year.

A report published in the journal Microbial Genomics confirmed that sufferers likely picked the illness up from eating beef burgers or minced beef.