Public Health England is investigating a number of E. coli O157 infections linked to the Isle of Wight.
Public Health England (PHE) is working with environmental health officers from the Isle of Wight Council to find the source of the outbreak.
Four children who visited the island off the south coast of England in early October have been infected with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O157. Up to 10 other people may be affected by test results pending. Inquiries are ongoing to find the source of the infection.
Since September, six other visitors or residents of the island have fallen sick from E. coli O157 infection but authorities do not believe there is a link to the other outbreak.
The four-year-old child from Hampshire named Isla Aspery who needed treatment at Southampton General Hospital after a trip to the Isle of Wight is one of those six, alongside her mother. PHE officials previously said there was no evidence to link her infection to the Isle of Wight.
Foodborne source suspected
Sometimes hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) can develop which is a type of kidney failure associated with E. coli infection. Young children and elderly people are more prone to developing complications associated with E. coli O157.
Evidence shows her E. coli O157 infection is different from the more recent cluster and available information points to this being from a foodborne source.
Dr. Anand Fernandes, a health protection consultant for PHE South East, said it is in contact with people who had been unwell to help identify the source of infection and prevent further spread.
“E. coli is a relatively common bug that can be easily picked up from touching animals or eating contaminated food. E. coli O157 is a particular strain of the bug and can cause a range of symptoms, from mild diarrhea to severe abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea and, on rare occasions, it can also cause more serious conditions.
“This is why we recommend people wash their hands thoroughly with soap and hot water and dry them after being near animals and before preparing or eating food. This is especially important if you have been ill with symptoms yourself, as people with the infection can pass it on to others by touching surfaces or food.”
Symptoms of the disease include abdominal cramps and diarrhea, which may be bloody. Fever and vomiting may also occur. The incubation period can range from three to eight days and most patients recover within 10 days.
“We would like to remind people how important it is to follow advice around handwashing as well as hygienic meal preparation – such as keeping raw and ready to eat foods separate and ensuring that food is thoroughly cooked before eating,” said Amanda Gregory, strategic manager for Regulatory and Community Safety Services at Isle of Wight Council.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)