One person has died in an E. coli outbreak being investigated by health authorities in the United Kingdom.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) are trying to find the source of the ongoing Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O183 outbreak with the help of other public health agencies.

There are 24 cases in the UK, with 19 in England, two each in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and one in Wales since May. For patients with available information, onset dates range from May 23 to July 2.

Search for source ongoing.
Patients have reported severe symptoms such as bloody diarrhea. Eight sick people visited hospitals for their symptoms, and six were hospitalized.

A dozen patients are male, and 12 are female. Ages range from under 1 to 74; the most affected age group is children nine years old and younger.

Epidemiological investigations are ongoing, but based on initial work, no standout food vehicle of infection exists. From patient interviews, sick people reported consuming hard cheese in a grated format. Strawberries, cucumbers, peppers, and watermelon have also been mentioned.

Amy Douglas, UKHSA incident director, said: “The UKHSA has identified an outbreak of a rare form of STEC, with most cases seen in children. The outbreak’s source has not yet been identified, but we are working with partners, including the Food Standards Agency, to investigate.

“Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water and ensuring to help young children with handwashing is the best way to stop the bug spreading. Children under five should not attend school/nursery/group childcare until they have been free of sickness or diarrhea for two days. Visits to hospitals or care home settings should be avoided if you are feeling unwell.”

One person developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), and one death is linked to the outbreak, although it is unclear if the person died because of or with STEC. HUS is a severe complication associated with E. coli infections that causes kidney failure.

E. coli O183 is an extremely rare serotype, with only 15 cases in the UK since 2016. Transmission can occur through direct or indirect contact with animals or their environments, contaminated food or water consumption, and person-to-person spread.

E. coli linked to attraction venue
In another incident, three children have fallen sick after visiting an adventure park in England.

Hobbledown in Epsom, Surrey, has temporarily closed after E. coli infections in people who had recently been to the park, which also has a number of animals.

Nick de Candole, the business owner, said: “We are in close contact with Epsom and Ewell District Council environmental health team and the UK Health Security Agency and cooperating fully with both on their respective investigations. I have written to everyone who visited between July 11 and 27 to inform them of the situation and included a letter from the UKHSA with further information and guidance. I can assure everyone that the well-being of visitors to Hobbledown is our absolute priority, and we do everything in our power to keep guests safe.”

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 U.S. 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, tiredness, 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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