New E Coli Cases Investigated In Dorset

28 May 2015, 07:36 | Updated: 28 May 2015, 08:04

Health officials are investigating a new case of E coli in Dorset - following an outbreak last year.

Two children are in hospital being treated for a complication of the infection.

The multi-agency team which carried out extensive investigations into an outbreak of E coli O55 in Dorset last year has been reconvened following confirmation of a case of the infection in a Dorset child. The child is one of two children from Dorset who are currently in hospital with haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) - a complication of E coli infection. Results of tests for the strain of VTEC (Verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli) infection are awaited on the second child.

There are three further possible cases on whom test results are also awaited and which are all connected to one household.

Detailed investigation and follow up of all cases and contacts is underway. The cluster of cases of E coli O55 in Dorset last year was extensively investigated but no common source or links were identified. No new cases were reported after 20 November 2014 but the investigation remained open. Information gathered last year will be reviewed against new information this year to see if there are any links.

Typically, there is an increase in the numbers of cases of E coli over the summer months. In order to prevent infection, it is very important to maintain good hand hygiene: washing hands thoroughly using soap and water after using the toilet, before and after handling food and after contact with animals including farm animals.  Small children should be supervised in washing their hands. Any loose soil should be removed before storing vegetables and all vegetables and fruit that will be eaten raw thoroughly washed.

The multi-agency team, chaired by Public Health England includes local environmental health teams from Bournemouth and Poole local authorities, Dorset County Council Public Health team and staff from PHE's Gastrointestinal Bacteria Reference Unit and Field Epidemiology Services in London.  Other agencies may be involved as needed.

Symptoms of E.coli infection can also include:
- Nausea
- Diarrhoea and vomiting
- Bloody diarrhoea
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Lethargy
- Passing smaller amounts of urine than usual
- Pallor
- Fits

How to avoid E.coli infection:
- Wash hands thoroughly using soap or disinfectant after using the toilet and then dry them thoroughly.
- Hand washing in young children should be supervised, especially after handling animals or their surroundings, for instance on a visit to a farm.
- Wash hands before and after handling food.
- Remove any loose soil before storing vegetables and salads to avoid cross contamination of clean items.
- Thoroughly wash all vegetables and fruits (including salads) that will be eaten raw unless they have been prepared and are specifically labelled 'ready to eat'.
- Do not prepare raw vegetables with utensils that have also been used for raw meat.
- Keep raw meat and unwashed vegetables away from ready-to-eat foods during storage and preparation.
- Use different chopping boards, knives and utensils for raw and ready-to-eat foods, or ensure they are washed thoroughly between uses.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw food - including meat and unwashed vegetables. Always wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food, particularly after using the toilet (or helping others including changing nappies), before meals, and after contact with animals or their environments.
- Cook all minced meat products (i.e. burgers, meatloaf, meat balls etc.) thoroughly, until steaming hot throughout and no pinkness or red meat is visible when you cut into them.
- Ensure that refrigerators are working correctly - bacteria grow more quickly at temperatures over 4oC.
- Only leave cooked foods, meat and dairy products out at room temperature for a short time.
- Store uncooked meats below cooked meats, salad, fruit or vegetables that might be eaten raw to avoid dripping meat juices onto ready to eat food.
- Store uncooked and cooked meats on different plates. Avoid all contact between raw and cooked meats.
- People who have been ill should not prepare food for others for at least 48 hours after they have recovered.
- Individuals working with uncooked meats or on farms should pay close attention to good hygiene practices, as should visitors to farms.