Two E. coli infections in children under investigation in Wales

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

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

The same three agencies are also investigating a likely case of E. coli O157 at an elementary school in Conwy to try to find the source.

There is currently no evidence in either case that the child contracted the infection at school.

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

“Parents and carers of school-going students who may have been in contact with this case have been approached 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 stay out of school until negative results are received,” he said.

“Anyone unwell with diarrhea or vomiting should stay away from school, daycare or work until they are advised by a medical professional that they are healthy enough to return or that they are symptom-free for at least 48 hours.”

Those who suffer from diarrhea or vomiting are advised to wash their hands thoroughly before eating, preparing food or serving food to others and after going to the toilet. All surfaces, including food preparation surfaces and door handles, should be cleaned regularly, at least daily, with standard cleaning agents.

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

About E. coli infections
Anyone who has developed symptoms of an 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 diseases.

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 complication of kidney failure known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, passing urine less often, small unexplained bruising or bleeding, and paleness.

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injury or death. This condition can affect people of any age but is most common in children under the age of five due to their immature immune systems, older adults due to a deteriorating immune system, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.

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

(To sign up for a free Food Safety News subscription, click here.)

Comments are closed.