The Public Health Agency (PHA) is continuing to monitor the outbreak of E. coli 0104 (VTEC). The World Health Organization has said the E. coli is a new strain of the bacteria. This new strain has resulted in a serious complication affecting the kidneys called haemolytic uraemia syndrome (HUS). To date there has been no reported case in Northern Ireland.
In Germany, the total number of cases associated with this organism is now in excess of 3000. The investigation into this outbreak of E. coli is being led by the Robert Koch Institute, Germany. Staff within the institute have strongly suggested that sprouted seeds such as lentils, alfalfa seeds, fenugreek and adzuki beans are vehicles of infection. The current advice is to avoid eating these in Germany.
Cases have also arisen in other European countries and the USA, the vast majority linked to travel to Germany. It has been reported recently that there have been six cases of a similar toxin producing E. coli in Northern France. There is no evidence that this is the same strain of E. coli which has caused the German outbreak. First indications would suggest that the source of the E. coli may be beef burgers bought locally. All cases are children and have not travelled to Germany.
Dr Philip Donaghy, Consultant in Health Protection, PHA said: “The Public Health Agency advises that anyone from Northern Ireland who is travelling to Germany should follow the guidance of German Authorities and avoid eating locally grown sprouted seeds until further notice. They are also advising that people no longer need to avoid eating raw tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber.
“Northern Ireland has a robust surveillance system in place to monitor E. coli and other serious diseases. To date, there have been no reported cases in Northern Ireland. However, anyone who develops an illness that includes bloody diarrhoea following a recent trip to Germany should seek urgent medical advice from their GP, and ensure that they tell healthcare staff they’ve been to Germany.”
A factsheet on E. coli can be found on http://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/health-matters-what-you-need-to-know-ecoli-0157
Contact PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611