Monday 23 October 2017

Northern Ireland’s E.coli outbreak contained – Stormont Health committee

Lesley-Anne McKeown

NORTHERN Ireland's E.coli outbreak has been contained, the Stormont Health committee was told today.

Maria Jennings from the Food Standards Agency said the source of crisis has still not been established but health officials were following definite lines of inquiry.

"We are confident there are no implications for the wider food chain," Ms Jennings said.

Almost 300 people have been affected by the outbreak linked to Flicks restaurant. In its most recent update the Public Health Agency (PHA) said there were 124 confirmed cases and 166 probable cases of E.coli.

The PHA said increase was not unexpected but was the result of probable cases being confirmed after testing.

"The number of probable cases is levelling off as fewer new reports are coming forward," a statement said.

The recent outbreak of E.coli has been described as the worst seen in Northern Ireland.

Management at the restaurant in the Cityside Mall complex voluntarily closed the premises on October 11 and have been co-operating with an investigation by the PHA and environmental health officers from Belfast City Council.

To date 18 people have been taken to hospital after contracting the illness but the majority have been discharged.

The health committee also heard that E.coli 0157 Type 54 is rare but is not as dangerous as other strains of the bug.

Ms Jennings said she was satisfied enough resources had been deployed to deal with the problem.

"With the best will in the world we can never be everywhere watching everyone. That's why we need to rely on systems and procedures," she added.

The PHA has said the strain of E.coli found this month was not the same as a strain linked to four cases connected to Flicks in August.

Dr Carolyn Harper, Director of Public Health, PHA, said: "What we can say at this stage is that the information to date suggests no wider risk to the public from E.coli O157 as regards this outbreak, and the restaurant remains closed.

"However, it is important that everyone helps to prevent the spread of E.coli and washes their hands after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food.

"People with vomiting or diarrhoea should remain at home and not prepare food - this is good advice at all times, not just when there is an outbreak."

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