E.coli O157 & Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome

E.coli O157 Outbreak in South Wales

14th October 2005

As at 3rd October 2005, 157 cases of infection have been reported in an outbreak of E.coli O157 in South Wales.  67 males and 90 females are affected, and 65% of cases (102/157) are in children of school age.

Dates of symptom onset range from 10th to 30th September, and over 40 schools have recorded cases. Tragically, there has been one death, a 5-year-old boy, Mason Jones.

Evidence suggests a link between the outbreak and a supplier of cooked meats to the school meals services. The distribution of cases is small numbers in a large number of schools and suggests a centrally distributed product with low levels of contamination rather than a problem in individual schools. This was followed by secondary person-to-person spread.

A single main supplier (John Tudor & Son, Bridgend) distributes cooked meats to the affected schools. The local authorities took action on 19th September, after identifying practices that could result in contamination of cooked meat at the supplier's premises, and the Food Standards Agency Wales issued a food alert on 21st September.

E.coli O157 has been isolated from 3 samples of sliced cooked meat obtained by environmental health staff.  Since the week beginning 19th September measures have been put in place to remove ready-to-eat foods (ie foods not cooked on the premises) from schools, and to cancel educational activities that facilitate person-to-person spread.  These are under constant review by the outbreak control team.

Many parents are angry that schools have not been closed during the outbreak to prevent the spread, but Welsh First Minister, Rhodri Morgan denied claims that they have been slow to respond and said he was absolutely committed to a full inquiry.

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