E.coli O157 & Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome

Ireland reports another increase in cases of E.coli and issues booklet for childcare workers

25th April 2012

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today voiced its concern at the high levels of E. coli infection in Southern Ireland, with provisional figures of 285 cases of human infection recorded in 2011 by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

The FSAI is urging childcare workers and crèche owners to ensure they have robust hygiene practices in place to reduce the incidence of this potentially life threatening bug. It today published E. coli – How to Protect the Children in Your Care – a leafletwhich is freely available to download on its website or from the FSAI’s Advice Line, which offers practical advice and tips to protect children and childcare workers.

According to Prof Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, FSAI, last year there were nine outbreaks of E. coli infection in children attending crèches or who were cared for in the home by childminders. This involved some 75 children and adults becoming ill, with 7 being hospitalised last year.

"It is concerning that we are seeing an increase in the prevalence of E. coli in Ireland and we are urging childcare providers to have steps in place to prevent the spread of infection in childcare settings. Most E. coli are harmless, but some of them can be particularly dangerous for babies and young children, because their immune systems are still developing and it can be easily spread by diarrhoea or vomit from one person to another. Washing hands is the single most important way to stop the spread of these E. coli. Young children should be helped to wash and dry their hands, as they can find it difficult to do this properly. Babies need to have their hands washed as often as older children. Hands should be washed after using the toilet, after changing nappies and before eating or preparing food."

"Our leaflet provides very simple and easy steps to prevent the spread of E. coli in childcare facilities, which include ensuring that staff or children who have diarrhoea or vomiting are kept away from the childcare facility for 48 hours after their last bout of diarrhoea or vomiting. Likewise, childminders working in the home who are ill should not mind children for 48 hours after their last bout of diarrhoea or vomiting. They should ask parents to make alternative childcare arrangements. We are asking childcare operators to read the leaflet, distribute it to staff and to ensure that the recommendations are implemented in order to prevent the spread of E. coli amongst children," he concluded.

The FSAI information leaflet E. coli – How to Protect the Children in Your Care is being sent to childcare facilities throughout the country. A copy of the leaflet can also can be obtained by contacting the Food Safety Authority of Ireland on 1890 336677 and is available to download here.

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