FARM families are being warned about an upsurge in a potentially lethal form of E coli.
The number of reported cases of the bug verotoxigenic E coli has risen to 547 this year compared to 251 last year. Most of the cases occurred in rural areas with almost half of those affected under five years of age.
Although most E coli bacteria is harmless, the more dangerous forms can lead to bloody diarrhoea, kidney failure and death in some cases. The Food Safety Authority said farmers should ensure they had robust hygiene practices in place.
Chief executive Prof Alan O'Reilly advised: "Simple measures can go a long way towards reducing this risk, such as washing hands after working or playing on the farm, ensuring the water supply is safe and not drinking unpasteurised milk."