Home Health UK hit by outbreak of infection that causes ‘severe bloody diarrhoea’ and...

UK hit by outbreak of infection that causes ‘severe bloody diarrhoea’ and hospitalisations

Health experts in the UK have issued an urgent warning amid an outbreak of a bacterial infection that can lead to “severe bloody diarrhoea” and dangerous complications. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed 113 recorded cases of E. coli, believing it could be caused by a nationally distributed food item.

Testing of samples suggests all of the cases since May 25 are “part of a single outbreak”.

A statement issued today by the UKHSA explained: “Infections caused by STEC [Shiga toxin-producing E. coli] bacteria can cause severe bloody diarrhoea and, in some cases, more serious complications.

“It 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 its environment.”

Symptoms of infections with STEC include severe and sometimes bloody diarrhoea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever.

The warning comes after a person in Scotland died from E. coli linked to cheese in December.

“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.

“The source of this outbreak is not yet confirmed but there is currently no evidence linking the outbreak to open farms, drinking water or swimming in contaminated seawater, lakes or rivers.

“The public health agencies are working with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland to investigate further.”

So far, there have been:

  • 81 cases found in England
  • 18 in Wales
  • 13 in Scotland
  • One in Northern Ireland.

However, the number affected is expected to rise as more samples from patients get tested.

The youngest who has become ill is aged two and the oldest aged 79. Some have been in hospital.

Trish Mannes, incident director at UKHSA, shared the signs of infection to look for.

“Symptoms of infections with STEC include severe and sometimes bloody diarrhoea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever,” she said.

“If you have diarrhoea and vomiting, you can take steps to avoid passing it on to family and friends.

“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 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.”

Darren Whitby, head of incidents and resilience at the FSA, added: “The FSA is working with UKHSA and relevant Public Health bodies to identify the source of the illness, which is likely to be linked to one or more food items.

“We always advise consumers and those looking after vulnerable people to ensure good hygiene practices are followed when handling and preparing food, regularly washing hands with soap and warm water and ensuring equipment, utensils and surfaces foods come into contact with are cleaned thoroughly to prevent cross contamination.

“You should not prepare food for others if you have had symptoms, or for 48 hours after symptoms stop.”

Call NHS 111 or contact your GP surgery if:

  • You’re worried about a baby under 12 months
  • Your child stops breast or bottle feeding while they’re ill
  • A child under five years has signs of dehydration, such as fewer wet nappies
  • You or your child (over five years) still have signs of dehydration after using oral rehydration sachets
  • You or your child keep being sick and cannot keep fluid down
  • You or your child have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from the bottom
  • You or your child have diarrhoea for more than seven days or vomiting for more than two days.


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