Rainfall causes surge in E coli cases
SEVERAL people have fallen seriously ill after a big surge in a potentially lethal bug which is strongly linked to the rise in heavy rainfall, it emerged yesterday.
Disease watchdogs revealed there has been a 200pc rise in reported cases of the potentially lethal E coli 0157 infections.
There have been 212 reports of people being infected by strains of the bug in the first six months of this year, compared to 69 for the same period in 2011.
Many people in rural areas have been infected after drinking from contaminated private water supplies, while outbreaks haves also occurred in creches.
No deaths have been reported but so far 13 people have developed life-threatening complications.
The risk of contamination in private supplies is higher during heavy rainfall, when contaminated water containing animals faeces may have run directly off farmland.
Dr Kevin Kelleher, head of health protection in the Health Service Executive (HSE) said it had not caused any deaths but 13 people developed Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS), which can potentially cause kidney failure.
People with HUS can be affected in the kidneys, blood or in some cases the the nervous system. It requires hospital treatment and, although most people make a full recovery, it can be fatal.
Eight outbreaks involving childcare facilities have been reported and more than one in two of the cases were in children under the age of five years.
Dr Kelleher said while part of this year's increase is explained by improved sensitivity of laboratory testing methods, there is wider spread of the infection.
"Most cases have occurred in rural areas. The areas with highest numbers of infections in the first six months of 2012 were the South (48), Mid West (40), Midlands (39), West (37) and North West (29)," he said.
"Most people recover completely without any problems. It can cause severe bloody diarrhoea. In about 5-8pc of cases the infection causes a life-threatening HUS.
"Up to 9pc of people who develop HUS following the infection die. HUS is more likely to occur in children under five and the elderly," he added.