Public warned to take extra precautions as number of E.coli infection cases triple
The HSE has warned the public to take extra precautions when handling and preparing food, following a soaring increase in reported cases of E. coli infections in recent weeks.
The number of VTEC (E.coli) infections reported within the last ten days (96) is already thrice more than the number of cases reported in the country this time last year.
VTEC are a type of E.coli that can live in the gut of healthy cattle and sheep, and are one of the common causes of food poisoning that can lead to serious issues. Cooking meat thoroughly kills these bugs, but if the meat is not cooked properly throughout, it can result in food poisoning and other serious complications.
Dr Kevin Kelleher, Assistant National Director, Public Health, said that while investigations haven’t identified a specific reason for the increase in cases, "we would like to remind people to be careful about food safety during this heatwave to protect themselves against food poisoning".
“This hot weather provides the right conditions for bacteria such as VTEC to grow and multiply on foods which can lead to high numbers of cases of food poisoning in adults and children. Not washing hands after handling raw meat, not washing fruits and vegetables and undercooking minced meats such as beef burgers are common ways of getting food poisoning at this time of year.”
This infection can be transferred from person to person if proper hygiene is not followed and hand washing habits are not adequate. Toddlers, who aren’t toilet trained, are especially prone to contracting this infection. Not washing vegetables and fruits properly, that have possibly been contaminated by animal feces, can also cause the infection.
The symptoms of this infection include bloody diarrhea and cramps. They usually pass within five to ten days, but in some cases can lead to serious illness called Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS). HUS, in 10pc of the cases, can cause kidney failure or even death.
The precautions you can take against food poisoning, according to Safe Foods are:
Clean – always wash your hands before and after preparing, handling and eating food, after visiting the toilet or after playing with pets or animals.
Cook – make sure that food is cooked all the way through in order to destroy any harmful bacteria that might be present.
Chill – keep food cool in order to prevent bad bacteria from growing; make sure that your fridge is at the correct temperature to keep cold foods chilled – aim to keep your fridge at 5°C or below.
Separate to prevent cross-contamination – separate raw and cooked foods during storage and cooking and never let raw food, for example, raw meat, come into contact with ready-to-eat foods such as salads