Public health officials in Wales are investigating two E. coli O157 infections at different primary schools in the country.

Public Health Wales, Conwy County Borough Council and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board are looking into a case of E. coli O157 at a primary school in Abergele.

The same three agencies are also investigating a probable case of E. coli O157 at a primary school in Conwy to try and find the source.

There is currently no evidence in either case to suggest the child acquired the infection at the school.

Richard Firth, consultant in public health at Public Health Wales, said E. coli infections can be serious.

“Parents and guardians of pupils that attend the school and who may have had contact with this case have been contacted and advised on infection prevention and control measures, and what steps to take if their child develops symptoms. Contacts have been asked to submit samples for testing and to remain off school until negative results are received,” he said.

“Anyone who is unwell with diarrhea or vomiting should stay away from school, nursery or work until they are advised by a medical professional that they are well enough to return or they are free from symptoms for at least 48 hours.”

Those suffering with diarrhea or vomiting are advised to wash hands thoroughly before eating, preparing food or serving food for others and after going to the toilet. All surfaces, including food preparation surfaces and door handles, should be cleaned on a regular, at least daily, basis with standard cleaning materials.

People can become infected through eating contaminated food, from direct contact with animals. Sick people can pass the infection to others. The time between exposure and occurrence of symptoms is usually between one and eight days.

About E. coli infections
Anyone who has developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible food poisoning. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

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