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​UK Health Authorities Investigate Widespread E.coli Outbreak

​UK Health Authorities Investigate Widespread E.coli Outbreak

Posted by Emma on 6th Jun 2024

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed a significant outbreak of E.coli, with 113 reported cases nationwide since 25 May. The outbreak is believed to be linked to a contaminated food item distributed across the UK. The affected regions include England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, with cases predominantly among young adults.

The UKHSA, in coordination with public health agencies from all four nations, is rigorously investigating the outbreak's source. The geographical spread of the cases suggests a single contaminated batch of a widely available product. While the specific food item responsible has not yet been identified, authorities are working diligently to pinpoint the source and will inform the public once confirmed.

E.coli, particularly the Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), can cause severe symptoms, including bloody diarrhoea, stomach cramps, vomiting, and fever. The current outbreak has hospitalised 37 individuals in England alone, with patients ranging from two to 79 years old.

Trish Mannes, Incident Director at UKHSA, emphasised the importance of maintaining strict hygiene practices to prevent further spread. "Washing your hands with soap and warm water and using disinfectants to clean surfaces will help stop infections from spreading," Mannes stated. She also advised those experiencing symptoms to avoid preparing food for others and to stay away from hospitals and care homes to prevent passing on the infection.

Darren Whitby, head of incidents and resilience at the Food Standards Agency (FSA), confirmed that the agency works closely with the UKHSA and other public health bodies to identify the contaminated food source. While historically, foods like beansprouts, pre-packed salads, and undercooked meat have been linked to E. coli, the current investigation is ongoing.

Typically, the UK records around 1,500 cases of STEC annually. However, the current surge indicates a more concentrated and potentially dangerous outbreak. Public health officials are urging vigilance and adherence to hygiene practices to mitigate further infections. The UKHSA has reiterated the necessity of avoiding work, school, or nursery for at least 48 hours after symptoms subside to curb the spread of the infection.

As the UKHSA and associated health agencies continue their investigation, the public is advised to stay informed and follow recommended health guidelines. The severity of this outbreak underlines the critical importance of food safety and hygiene in preventing such incidents.