E.coli Outbreak in West Midlands Park

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is working with Birmingham City Council to investigate seven confirmed cases of E. coli O157 in visitors to the Sutton Park in Sutton Coldfield in recent weeks.

Parents are advised that E. coli O157 is an infection that can cause serious illness in young children. Of those visitors who became ill, five were children under eight. 

Dr Roger Gajraj, a consultant with the HPA?s West Midlands East Health Protection Unit (HPU) said: ''E. coli O157 can be very serious in young children and can in some instances cause kidney failure. 

The council is increasing hand washing facilities at the park and the City Council and HPA are issuing leaflets and displaying posters to warn visitors of the risks and advise on preventative measures. However to minimise the risk of infection parents may want to consider taking very young children to other parks in the local area.'' E. coli O157 is often associated with contact with animals and rural environments that may have been contaminated by animal faeces. 

The HPA has detected the same type of E. coli O157 both in the cases and in the faeces of cattle grazing the land. Dr Gajraj added: ''The best protection against E. coli is to always wash your hands, especially after contact with animals, after going to the toilet and immediately before eating. I would also advise cyclists and walkers to wash their tyres, footwear and their hands after visiting Sutton Park as an extra precaution. 

''If hand-washing facilities are not immediately available, alcohol-based hand wipes can provide some limited protection but they don't work or give adequate protection when hands are already soiled.'' 

Birmingham City Council's Head of Parks, Darren Share, said: ''We are working closely with the HPA to control this outbreak and we have already taken a number of measures. But as the infection can be particularly serious for young children we feel it is appropriate at this stage to warn parents and families of the potential risks.

 There are signs throughout the park informing visitors of the outbreak and the steps they can take to protect themselves.'' Hand-washing after contact with animals, even domestic pets, is vital. Young children should be supervised when washing their hands, or have their hands washed for them. 

Further information on E. coli O157 is available on the HPA website