Council issues warning and advice about E. coli outbreak

Published: 18 Jun 2024

E Coli Outbreak June 2024

Horsham District Council is alerting the public about cases of a potentially serious gastrointestinal illness reported within the Horsham District, which is thought to be linked to an ongoing national outbreak.

The UK Health Security Agency has been investigating the spread of a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infection across the UK and believe the outbreak to be connected to a common source, which is most likely contaminated food, but this is yet to be confirmed.

Over 40 cases have been identified nationally since February, with around one hundred more being treated as probably linked to the outbreak, although genetic testing to determine if the same strain is involved continues.

With two suspected cases of STEC reported within the Horsham District and investigated by Environmental Health Officers, the Council is making the public aware of the signs of infection so that further information can be gathered, but more importantly, ensure anyone affected can seek the medical attention they need.

A spokesperson for the Environmental Health & Licensing team explained: “STEC can cause serious illness in most people, especially the elderly and immunocompromised individuals, but it is particularly dangerous in young children who are at risk of developing a life-threatening disease called ‘HUS’ – or haemolytic uraemic syndrome – which results in kidney failure.”

The bacteria that causes STEC is found in the general environment, especially in areas that may have been exposed to animal faeces such as fields used for grazing.  Direct contact with animals that are infected themselves, such as at petting farms, is also a significant source of infection, as is consuming contaminated food and water.

The spokesperson continued: “General symptoms of a STEC infection will be stomach cramps, fever, and diarrhoea, which can include bloody diarrhoea in around half of cases.  Most people will make a full recovery, although these symptoms can last around two weeks if there are no complications, such as HUS.”

Signs of the life-changing condition developing during an STEC infection include urinating less-often or not at all, or finding blood in the urine; losing pink colour in the cheeks or inside of eyelids; unexplained bruising or tiny red spots on the skin; and feeling very tired with decreased awareness.

The spokesperson concluded: “If your child shows any of the symptoms of HUS following gastrointestinal illness then it is critical medical attention is sought as a matter of urgency.”

If you or a member of your family is suffering from illness that may be linked to STEC or if you have any other concerns, please contact your GP or call NHS 111 for advice.