| 17.4°C Dublin

44 E.coli cases after restaurant outbreak

More than 40 people in Northern Ireland have contracted a potentially lethal strain of E.coli.

In its latest update on the food poisoning crisis, the Public Health Agency (PHA) said there could be a further 144 cases linked to a north Belfast restaurant.

"As of 3pm on Friday there were 44 confirmed cases and 144 probable cases," a spokesman said.

The outbreak, which has been linked to Flicks in the Cityside Mall complex, is the worst ever seen in Northern Ireland.

Since the start of October, 15 people have been hospitalised, although the majority have since been discharged.

The restaurant has closed and is co-operating with an investigation by the PHA and environmental health officers from Belfast City Council.

The PHA is still trying to determine the cause of the outbreak.

Yesterday the agency said the strain of E.coli was not the same as that linked to four cases connected to Flicks in August.

Dr Carolyn Harper, director of public health, PHA, said: "It is vital that everyone follows some simple rules to prevent the spread of E.coli.

"Raw and cooked food should be kept completely separate, raw meat should be cooked through, and vegetables and fruit should be washed thoroughly before eating."