The Public Health Agency (PHA) and Environmental Health Officers from Belfast City Council are continuing to investigate an outbreak of Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157 linked to Flicks restaurant in Cityside Mall, 100-150 York Street, Belfast.
As of 3pm on Wednesday 17 October 2012, there were 25 confirmed cases and 154 probable cases. Eight people have been hospitalised since the start of the outbreak, but the PHA understands that most have now gone home.
Dr Michael Devine, Consultant in Health Protection, PHA, said: “The PHA has activated a full public health response to this outbreak, and the situation is being managed and monitored very closely.”
"It is vital 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."
Investigations are continuing and final conclusions will emerge when all cases have been identified and analysed to identify any common links.
The management of Flicks have voluntarily closed the premises and are cooperating with the investigation.
The PHA has advised that anyone who ate at Flicks restaurant since 24 September and has symptoms of diarrhoea (especially bloody diarrhoea) and/or abdominal pain should contact their GP urgently for medical advice.
Dr Devine explained: “The Escherichia coli bacteria is commonly found in the intestines of humans and animals. There are many different types of E. coli, and while some live in the intestine quite harmlessly, others may cause a variety of diseases. The bacterium is found in faeces and can survive in the environment.
“Symptoms caused by E. coli O157 can include diarrhoea, which can range from mild to profuse watery or bloody diarrhoea, tummy cramps, nausea or vomiting.”
The PHA is also aware of four cases of E. coli O157 among adults in August which were linked to this restaurant, and alongside Belfast City Council Environmental Health Officers, investigated those at the time. All tests on the restaurant at that time were negative. In addition, further environmental health inspections were conducted, all of which were satisfactory, and enhanced surveillance to monitor for cases was also put in place. The current cases came to light through that enhanced monitoring.
As part of the investigation into the current outbreak, any potential link with the previous cases will be examined, although it is too early to comment further on this at such an early stage.
For media enquiries, contact PHA Communications on 028 9055 3663
Notes to the editor
Regular updates will continue until further notice. The next update will be issued tomorrow afternoon.
Information on E. coli O157:http://www.publichealth.hscni.net/ecoli-O157
For further information, the PHA leaflet Preventing food poisoning at home and in healthcare settings at: http://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/preventing-food-poisoning-home-and-healthcare-settings-0
Examples of previous major E. coli outbreaks elsewhere in the UK:
- During August and September 2009 there was an outbreak of E. coli O157 among visitors to Godstone Farm in Surrey, England. 93 people were affected.
- In September 2005 there was an outbreak of E. coli O157 in Wales, with more than 150 cases, most of whom were children.
- In 1996, there was an E. coli O157 outbreak linked to a butcher’s in Lanarkshire, Scotland, which resulted in over 300 cases.