Almost 30 cases of E. coli infection have been linked to a nursery in Scotland.

NHS Lothian is part of a team investigating 28 cases of E. coli linked to Pear Tree Nursery on Church Street in Haddington. Officials previously said E. coli O157 had sickened a number of young people in the East Lothian area.  

Cases are confined to the nursery, respective households, or other close contacts. The site has been closed while the investigation continues.

A number of confirmed patients have been hospitalized but all are in a stable condition. Most people had mild symptoms and did not require hospital treatment.

Some people at a partner nursery in the same town reported symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea, which have resolved without medical treatment. Meadowpark Pear Tree Nursery in Haddington has also been closed. 

Search for source ongoing
Investigations have not yet revealed a specific source but microbiological testing is underway.

Dr. Richard Othieno, chair of the incident management team and public health consultant at NHS Lothian, said it is an anxious time for those directly affected by the infection.

“NHS Lothian has a robust surveillance system in place to identify E. coli cases which helped us to identify these cases early and put in place essential control measures to prevent further spread. This outbreak reinforces the importance of washing hands regularly, particularly before eating or preparing food, and after going to the toilet,” he said.

“We continue to provide support to the nursery and those parents and carers who have been directly affected. We have encouraged parents to keep their children away from other children and those at higher risk until their negative results have been received.”

In 2019, there were 150 cases of E. coli O157 and 108 of non-O157 STEC reported to Public Health Scotland. The rates of infection were highest in children younger than 5 years of age with a peak in summer months.

E. coli can be caught in different ways such as by eating contaminated food, touching infected animals or coming into contact with their feces, contact with people who have the illness or drinking contaminated water.

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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