The Public Health Agency (PHA) is monitoring closely the outbreak of E. coli linked to salad vegetables being reported across Europe. The World Health Organization has said this is being caused by a completely new strain of bacteria. The E. coli 0104 (VTEC) infection has resulted in a serious complication affecting the kidneys called haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS). To date, there have been no reported cases in Northern Ireland.
Cases of haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) in Germany have risen to 470, with nine reported deaths. German authorities have also reported 1,064 cases of bloody diarrhoea caused by E. coli 0104 (VTEC) bacteria, with four deaths, bringing the total number of official reported deaths in Germany associated with this outbreak to 13.
The Health Protection Agency has confirmed one new case of HUS and three new cases of bloody diarrhoea in England. All are suspected to be related to the outbreak in Germany. Three of the four new cases, including the HUS case, are UK residents who recently travelled to Germany and the other is a German national on holiday in England. This brings the total number of outbreak-associated cases in England to seven – three HUS and four with bloody diarrhoea. There are no reports of any secondary infections in England.
Cases have also occurred in other European countries and the USA, all with links to Germany.
Dr Brian Smyth, Consultant in Health Protection, PHA, said: “As German health authorities have so far been unable to find a source of the outbreak, the PHA would advise anyone travelling to Germany to minimise their risk of catching this serious disease by washing all fruit and vegetables thoroughly before use. Peeling or cooking fruit and vegetables is also advised. Washing your hands before handling food and after going to the toilet will also prevent spread of E. coli and other infections.
“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 that they’ve been in Germany.”
A factsheet on E. coli can be found on: http://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/health-matters-what-you-need-know-e-coli-o157
Contact the PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611.
Notes to the editor
Haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) is a serious complication from verocytotoxin-producing E. coli (VTEC) infection that affects the blood, kidneys and in severe cases, the central nervous system. It is a serious illness that requires treatment in hospital and can be fatal.
Escherichia coli (commonly referred to as E coli) bacteria usually cause diarrhoea which settles within seven days without treatment. There are many strains of the infection. Occasionally, serious kidney and blood complications can occur, such as HUS.
For further information visit: www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAweb&Page&HPAwebAutoListName/Page/1296687744200