New cases of rare E coli in Dorset


Feature 10 New cases of rare E coli in Dorset A new case of rare E coli O55 infection has been identified in Dorset, with a cat also affected. Public Health England, which is investigating the ongoing outbreak, said the adult affected wasn’t hospitalised and has recovered well from the illness along with the animal.

To date, 26 cases of this particular strain of E coli have been confirmed in the county, and it is now believed that pets might be carrying the disease.

Health protection consultant Noëleen McFarland said: “PHE would like to reassure the public that the investigation into this unusual strain is ongoing. What we now know is that cats and other pets could be spreading this bacteria but they are not the source. E coli is a type of bacteria that is found in the guts of cattle and other ruminants whilst cats and other pets can act as carriers passing this on to humans in their faeces.”

No common source has yet been identified for the outbreak, which has seen several adults and children hospitalised with serious complications following infection over the last 14 months.

Following several cases last summer there were no new reports of infection between November and May this year, when four people from one household contracted the disease.

E coli O55 has not previously been identified in the UK and tests are currently being developed to identify its presence in animals. Public Health England has stressed the importance of good hygiene, particularly in light of the chance pets might be carriers. “Typically there is an increase in the number of cases of E coli over the summer months as people tend to go out more, they might touch a fence post or gate which a wild animal has been in contact with,” said Ms McFarland.

“We know E coli can be carried by foxes, rodents and rabbits. In order to prevent infection, we are urging local people to be extra vigilant and maintain good hand hygiene: washing hands thoroughly after contact with pets and other animals including farm animals, after using the toilet, before and after handling food.”

Dorset has seen several cases of the common strain E coli O157 in the last year. In either form, infection can have minor symptoms or can result in potentially life-threatening complications, particularly in children.
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