We’ve learned lessons but we’re not telling anyone: Public Health England accused of E. coli O55 cover up

In Dec. 2014, an outbreak of E. coli 055 was identified in Dorset, U.K. with at least 31 sickened. Public Health England (PHE) and local environmental health officials investigated and found nothing, other than cats were also being affected.

Tara Russell of the Bournemouth Echo reports a nurse who fears her family’s lives will never be the same again after contracting the deadly E. coli bug has accused health officials of a ‘cover up.’

Jessica Archer and her nephew Isaac Mortlock, now five, were among the first of 31 people in Dorset who battled for their lives when they were diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) as a result of E. coli O55 in summer 2014.

Three years on, Isaac suffers with severe seizures, must be peg fed for 10 hours each night and will need a kidney transplant and Jessica endures crippling head pains, fatigue and depression as a result of the bug.

But though the families’ lives have changed irreversibly, they feel let down by the Public Health England (PHE) investigation.

Jessica, who completed the London Marathon to raise awareness of her family’s plight, said: “This illness has robbed us. We are no longer the same people. It’s very frightening how life can suddenly change in an instant and I’m sure if all the other families were sat around the table they would say exactly the same.

“If someone attempts to murder someone, that is taken very seriously. We have been close to death through whatever reason that may be, yet we feel it was not taken at all seriously and more and more and more people suffered.

“It feels like a cover up and we just believe there are too many questions that have been left unanswered.”

Isaac and Jessica became ill after the family had eaten together at a restaurant. Medics originally put symptoms down to gastroenteritis but they were later diagnosed with a severe life-threatening complication which attacked their kidneys, liver and brain and fought for life. Today Jessica said they face a daily battle for recovery.

“We were discharged within a day of each other and we were so naïve. We thought we’d get our lives back together. How wrong were we.

“I used to be fit and active, now there’s not a day I can say ‘I feel well today.’”

Isaac today suffers severe health and behavioural problems.

The investigation closed in March 2016 without the affected families being made aware and failed to find the source. The outbreak was only confirmed by PHE in response to enquiries made by the Bournemouth Echo in November 2014 after it struck a children’s nursery in Blandford – months after the initial outbreak.

Jessica said: “We’ve been in the dark throughout with absolutely no communication about the outbreak, investigation or what has happened since. If they’d have thought we were important enough to find the cause, little babies and children may not have been put through the same hell.

“All we can hope for is that lessons have been learned so no other family ever has to go through the same horrendous ordeal we are living. For us, every morning is a constant reminder that life for us will never be the same.”

This is normal in the U.K. where science-based agencies recommend cooking food to the standard of piping hot, and where 252 people were sickened with E. coli O157 in 2010 – 80 hospitalized, one death, possibly linked to potatoes and leeks – and the Food Standards Agency reminded people to wash their produce.

This is some fucked up shit.

Maybe that’s why I like John Oliver so much.

He says he’s British and has no human emotion.

It’s buried way, way down.

Russell of the Bournemouth Echo writes public health officials carried out a review of the E. coli outbreak in Dorset to ‘identify lessons learnt.’

Public Health England said it is a ‘learning organisation’ and ‘reflects on outbreaks’ however refused to reveal what these lessons were.

Dr Sarah Harrison, consultant in health protection at Public Health England South West said: “Our colleagues in Public Health England worked closely with partners to try and identify a possible common source of infection, but the investigations did not identify a single common source. It is very good news that there have been no further cases of infection with this strain in Dorset since the end of the outbreak in 2015, however we remain vigilant.

“PHE is a learning organisation and reflects on outbreaks to identify lessons learnt and to continually improve our response. A review of this outbreak was conducted at the time by staff involved in line with standard procedures.

“E coli VTEC can be a very serious infection and can be passed easily from person to person and young children are particularly easily affected. We know that the bacteria causing the infection can survive in the environment, so good hand hygiene is important to prevent the spread. Wash hands thoroughly using soap and water after using the toilet, before and after handling food and after contact with animals including farm animals. Small children should be supervised in washing their hands. Remove any loose soil before storing vegetables and thoroughly wash all vegetables and fruit that will be eaten raw.”

PHE said the investigation at the time was extensive with involvement from many organisations.

A statement read: “Control measures included extended screening and exclusion of cases and high risk contacts. Public Health England and the Animal and Plant Health Agency put in place enhanced surveillance of faecal samples in Dorset laboratories and environmental sampling to help determine the extent of this organism in the community. The only link common to all the cases was that they either lived in or had close links to the county. The outbreak investigation closed in March 2016.”

As John Oliver would say, cool.

As Jessica Archer would say, fuck off you bureaucratic assholes who spend work time watching goats singing Taylor Swift songs on the the Intertubes.