E. coli O157

VTEC areecoli a group of bacteria which cause illness in humans. The most important VTEC strain to cause illness in the UK is E. coli O157. Symptoms can range from mild gastroenteritis to severe bloody diarrhoea, mostly without fever, through to two serious conditions known as haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) and thrombotic thrombocytopaenic purpura (TTP) that affect the blood, kidneys and in severe cases the central nervous system.

 People can become infected by:

  • Eating contaminated food
  • Contact with infected animals either directly or through inadvertent contact with animal faeces (e.g. at farms, petting farms and campsites); 
  • Contact with other people who have the illness (i.e. through inadequate hand hygiene after using the toilet and/or before food handling); 
  • Drinking water from inadequately treated water supplies; 
  • Swimming or playing in contaminated water such as ponds or streams.

For further information on E. coli see:
E. coli Public Information Factsheet
E coli Professional Information Factsheet

The PHA advises that everyone follows some simple rules to prevent the spread of E coli - not just those with symptoms, but everyone should wash their hands after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food. Raw and cooked food should be kept completely separate, raw meat should be cooked through and vegetables and fruit should be washed thoroughly before eating. 

Advice for Parents and Schools if a Child has Vomiting or Diarrhoea

Any cause of vomiting or diarrhoea
ANY child with vomiting and/or diarrhoea should not go to school or nursery until at least 48 hours after the last episode of vomiting or diarrhoea.

Specific advice for E coli 0157
As with any cause of vomiting or diarrhoea, a child should not go to school or nursery until at least 48 hours after the last episode of vomiting or diarrhoea. 

In addition, there are further requirements for children five years or under, and those who need help with toileting and handwashing. If these children have E coli 0157, or if they don’t have symptoms but they live with, or have been in close contact with someone who has E coli 0157, they should not go to school or nursery until two stool samples taken at least 24 hours apart are clear of the infection.  (See HPA  - Do you need to stay off work or school? https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vero-cytotoxin-producing-escherichia-coli-symptoms-how-to-avoid-how-to-treat

Further guidance on infection control in schools and other childcare settings is available from HPA https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/infection-control-in-schools-poster

For further information for patients and visitors on preventing food poisoning:
http://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/preventing-food-poisoning-home-and-healthcare-settings-0

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