UK public health officials are investigating an outbreak of the E. coli O157 bacteria that infected nearly 200 people in one month.
Since early September, 192 genetically linked cases of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157 have been identified in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
The majority of patients are adults but there were no deaths associated with the accident.
No source of the spike in infections has been identified.
Dr Leslie Larkin, Head of Surveillance, Gastrointestinal Infections and Food Safety at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said a rise in E. coli cases that had been notified to public health surveillance systems had been observed in recent weeks.
Recent data shows early indications of a return to levels expected for this time of year, but we continue to monitor the situation closely. Whole genome sequencing shows us that this increase in reports is driven by the specific strain of STEC O157 that caused the outbreak, and we are investigating possible causes with public health and food safety experts in the UK and Ireland.
“Ensuring that you wash your hands with soap and water is the best way to prevent the spread of this bug. When preparing food, be sure to thoroughly wash salads, fruits, and vegetables and follow all safe meat cooking instructions.”
About Escherichia coli infection
Anyone who develops symptoms of an E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor that they may have been exposed to food poisoning. Specific tests are needed to diagnose the infection, which can mimic other diseases.
Symptoms of an E. coli infection vary from person to person, but often include severe stomach cramps and often bloody diarrhea. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop serious or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
About 5 to 10 percent of people with E. coli infection develop a potentially life-threatening complication of kidney failure, known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruising or bleeding, and pallor.
Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some have permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur in people of any age but is more common in children under five years of age due to an immature immune system, the elderly due to a deteriorating immune system, and people with weakened immune systems such as cancer patients.
People with symptoms of HUS should seek emergency medical care immediately. People with HIV are more likely to be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurological problems.
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