290 sickened in large E. coli Outbreak.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) and Environmental Health Officers from Belfast City Council are continuing to investigate an outbreak of Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157 linked to Flicks restaurant in Cityside Mall, 100-150 York Street, Belfast.

Dr. Carolyn Harper, Director of Public Health, PHA, said: “The PHA has activated a full public health response to this outbreak and the situation is being managed and monitored very closely.

“We continue to meet daily with colleagues at Belfast City Council to share information and results and are working with the Council and Food Standards Agency to ensure this investigation progresses steadily. We are also liaising with the Health Protection Agency regarding typing and other specialist advice.

“This is a complex, evolving and detailed investigation and all aspects of the outbreak are being examined thoroughly. As such, it would not be appropriate to comment at this stage on any potential cause of the outbreak, but as with all outbreaks, a full report will be made publicly available when the investigation and analysis is complete.

“It is not always possible to identify a specific source in outbreaks as the mechanism of contamination of food may have been short term and corrected in subsequent cleaning, food hygiene practice, or normal disposal of food.

“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 his or her hands after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food. People with vomiting or diarrhea should remain at home and not prepare food – this is good advice at all times, not just when there is an outbreak.”

As of 3pm on Wednesday 24 October 2012, there were 124 confirmed cases and 166 probable cases. The increase in confirmed cases over recent days is not unexpected and is as a result of probable cases becoming confirmed following testing. The number of probable cases is leveling off as fewer new reports are coming forward.