31 sickened by E. coli O55 in Dorset: 3 years later, health-types’ report remains a secret

In Dec. 2014, an outbreak of E. coli O55 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 Bournemouth Echo reports again this week that a review into the outbreak in Dorset was carried out, health chiefs have insisted – but the report is not available to the public.

Public Health England (PHE) says the public can only request to see the report detailing exactly what happened when 31 people contracted the O55 strain between July 2014 and November 2015 through a Freedom of Information request.

Families including some whose children have been left with lifelong health complications say they did not know the review existed and have branded it ‘disappointing and disgusting’ they have been kept in the dark.

The Daily Echo has lodged an official FOI request on behalf of the affected families and will receive a response in July.

Nurse Jessica Archer, who today suffers crippling head pains, fatigue and depression while her nephew Isaac Mortlock (right) endures severe seizures, must be peg fed every night and will need a kidney transplant as a result of the outbreak, said: “Without the Daily Echo we wouldn’t even know this report even existed and we are very interested to see it and we have the right to know. The families affected have so many unanswered questions and have to live with the effects of this outbreak forever but yet again we feel Public Health England are trying to sweep it under the carpet and hope that it will just go away.

“It is disappointing and disgusting this report has not already been made public let alone having to wait and wait still. We feel there have been a series of failures and this is the latest.”

The news comes after Jessica last month called for PHE to be held to account telling how her and her five-year-old nephew’s Isaac Mortlock’s lives have changed irreversibly, and accused the organisation of ‘a cover up.’

In response, PHE told the Daily Echo it carries out ‘routine outbreak reviews once investigations have ended’, adding it is ‘a learning organisation and reflects on outbreaks to identify lessons learnt and to continually improve our response.’

However at the time, the organisation refused to tell the Daily Echo exactly which lessons were learned.

It was only following a further request from this newspaper, PHE said a report was compiled however it has not been available to the public.

A spokesman said: “This report was not intended for external publication – it’s not standard procedure to publish outbreak reports externally due to patient confidentiality – however if interested parties would like to request a copy they can do this via our Freedom of Information portal.”

That’s bullshit.

Outbreak investigations are routinely published while ensuring patient confidentiality.

Families say it is the latest in a string of ‘failures’ by Public Health England.

A spokesman from PHE added: “As with all outbreaks, PHE Health Protection Team ensured throughout their investigation that those affected were kept informed of any information that was uncovered at that time.”

That’s also bullshit.

And why UK health types feature prominently in our paper on when to go public for the benefit of public health.

Three years seems a bit long.

Going public: Early disclosure of food risks for the benefit of public health


NEHA, Volume 79.7, Pages 8-14

Benjamin Chapman, Maria Sol Erdozaim, Douglas Powell


Often during an outbreak of foodborne illness, there are health officials who have data indicating that there is a risk prior to notifying the public. During the lag period between the first public health signal and some release of public information, there are decision makers who are weighing evidence with the impacts of going public.

Multiple agencies and analysts have lamented that there is not a common playbook or decision tree for how public health agencies determine what information to release and when. Regularly, health authorities suggest that how and when public information is released is evaluated on a case-by-case basis without sharing the steps and criteria used to make decisions.

Information provision on its own is not enough. Risk communication, to be effective and grounded in behavior theory, should provide control measure options for risk management decisions. There is no indication in the literature that consumers benefit from paternalistic protection decisions to guard against information overload. A review of the risk communication literature related to outbreaks, as well as case studies of actual incidents, are explored and a blueprint for health authorities to follow is provided.

30 sickened in over a year: New test to find source of UK E. coli O55

The E. coli O55 mystery continues in Dorset, UK.

It first emerged in July 2014, when two children were hospitalized with acute kidney problems and has since caused outbreaks of infectious diarrhea.

e.coli.O55.issacTo date the O55 strain has affected 30 people, 10 of them children in areas including Bournemouth, Poole, Weymouth, Blandford and Christchurch. It also affected two cats.

All 10 children and one adult were hospitalized after they developed the complication of hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) which affects the kidneys.

Noeleen McFarland, from Public Health England, told BBC’s Inside Out South: “When it was confirmed we knew we had uncovered something unusual that hadn’t been seen in the UK before.”

Despite an investigation, tests and screening, the source of the strain, which produces a toxin that can lead to fatal kidney failure, has never been traced.

Public Health England said any previous cases of the O55 strain in the UK had been associated with travel.

Following the outbreak, officers were sent out to investigate and test play parks, swimming pools and restaurants visited by those infected seven days prior to them being ill.

“Everything we investigated, tested and sampled was all negative,” Mrs McFarland said.

e.coli.O55Isaac Mortlock, aged four, from Bournemouth, was hospitalized after contracting the strain.

Isaac’s mum Gabrielle Archer said: “His kidney function didn’t return to normal and we’ve been told he will need a transplant in the future.”

A new test is being developed to detect the O55 strain and it is hoped the test will be ready for use on animals in the new year.

The new test is being worked on by scientists at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), based in Surrey using microscopic magnetic beads which picks out the E. coli O55.

Mystery continues with 26 sick: Third UK child hospitalized with E. coli O55 infection

A third child is being treated in hospital for serious kidney problems following an E. coli infection in Dorset.

e.coli.O55.uk.sep.15Public Health England (PHE) said tests had shown it was the same strain of E. coli O55 that had affected 26 other people in the county.

In May, two children were also admitted to hospital with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), the most common cause of acute kidney injury in children .

No common source has been identified.

PHE said close family contacts and pets were being tested and follow-up investigations were taking place.

It urged Dorset residents and visitors to be “extra vigilant” with hand hygiene before preparing food and after contact with animals.

In June, the O55 strain was found in animal droppings outside the home of an affected family.

It is not yet clear whether the fecal sample, which tested positive, came from a wild or domestic animal.

Clusters of this particular strain had not been identified in England since records began in 1994.

Mystery E.coli O55 outbreak in UK deepens as cat and owner affected

Beginning Nov. 2014, a cluster of E. coli O55 cases was identified in Dorset followed by another cluster in May 2015: no common source was found.

Now, a new case of E. coli O55 has been identified, along with a case in a pet cat.

e.col.O55To date, 26 cases of E. O55 coli have been confirmed in the county, and it is now believed that pets might be carrying the disease.

Health protection consultant Noëleen McFarland said: “Public Health England would like to reassure the public that the investigation into this unusual strain is ongoing.

“What we now know is that cats and other pets could be spreading this bacteria but they are not the source.

“E.coli is a type of bacteria that is found in the guts of cattle and other ruminants, whilst cats and other pets can act as carriers passing this on to humans in their faeces.”

Both the person and cat affected were from the same household, but however the agency will not reveal the locations of cases, citing patient confidentiality.

No common source has yet been identified for the outbreak, which is only in Dorset.

UK pets tested in E. coli O55 investigation

A number of pets linked with an E. coli outbreak in Dorset are being tested as experts work to identify the source.

dog.sweep.poopIt follows the discovery of the E. coli O55 strain in animal droppings outside a house of a family recently affected.

Public Health England (PHE) described this – the first non-human case – as “interesting.”

Two children were treated in hospital for serious kidney problems following E. coli O55 infections last month. They have since been allowed home.

It is not clear whether the fecal sample which tested positive came from a wild or domestic animal.

A cluster of cases of the bacterial illness in Dorset was investigated in November 2014, with another outbreak in May, but no common source was found.

Two more children with E.col O55-linked HUS in Dorset, UK

Pathogens can move through a family quickly. Once a foodborne bug gets into a home (and its toilets) others are at increased risk of illness. My Campylobacter saga ended with a secondary case in our household – Jack (who was 14 months old) got sick about 10 days after I did. Fortunately neither of us had any long-term effects.

There’s a bunch of E. coli O55 in Dorset (UK); at least ten were ill last year with the rare STEC and no source was identified.ecoli-1184px

BBC reports that a Dorset family is dealing with two children who have been diagnosed with HUS, also linked to E. coli O55.

Public Health England (PHE) said they were from the same family as two children being treated in hospital for serious kidney problems following E. coli 055.

PHE has informed schools and workplaces linked to the household. Results on another possible case are awaited.

The two children are currently in hospital with haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) – a complication of E coli infection.

Ten people in the Blandford area of Dorset were diagnosed with E. coli 055 between July and November 2014.

A further two cases were identified in Portland, four in Bournemouth and Poole as well as three cases outside the county which had links to people from Dorset.

Nursery children were among those infected with the bacterial illness, which can lead to kidney problems in some cases.

UK E. coli cluster investigation reopens after child hospitalized

A child from Dorset is being treated in hospital for complications following an E. coli infection as investigations reopen into a previous cluster.

e.coli.O55Tests are being carried out on another child and three other suspected cases linked to one household.

A cluster of the rare E. coli O55 in Dorset was investigated last year but no common source was found.

Public Health England is reviewing data from the last outbreak to examine possible links with current cases.

The child is one of two from Dorset who are currently in hospital with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) – a complication of E. coli infection.

Results of tests for the strain of Verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) infection are awaited on the second child.

Ten people in the Blandford area of Dorset were diagnosed with E. coli O55 between July and November 2014.

A further two cases were identified in Portland, four in Bournemouth and Poole as well as three cases outside the county which had links to people from Dorset.

Children hospitalized buthealth types refuse to release details: UK E. coli outbreak

An outbreak of E coli has been identified in Dorset after a child was confirmed to be infected with the disease.

claudia.e.coli.petting.zoo.may.14The child is one of two from the county who are currently in hospital with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a complication of E coli infection.

Public Health England, which is also carrying out tests on three further children, has refused to divulge any details about the location of the outbreak or where the children are from.

Last year 10 people in Dorset were affected by the disease between July and November.

UK toddler left in intensive care after E. coli O55 outbreak

A toddler is recovering after he was left in intensive care for two weeks due to kidney failure after contracting E. coli O55 while staying with family in Dorset.

e.coli.O55An outbreak of E. coli 055 was reported in Dorset in Dec. 2014, with 10 people confirmed as suffering with the severe illness caused by the bacterium and at least 18 sickened. Public Health England (PHE) and local environmental health officials are investigating the outbreak in a bid to find the cause.

Now Neil Fincham-Dukes, 31, from Bath has instructed public health lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate why his son, Joseph, 3, and his daughter Poppy, 1, contracted E. coli and whether the illness is linked to the recent outbreak in Dorset.

  1. coli O55 is a rare strain of the bacteria which can have very serious consequences. Joseph’s symptoms began in early November 2014 and he suffered with diarrhea and sickness. He visited his doctor on two occasions, but unfortunately his condition worsened and he suffered a number of seizures and became disorientated.

He was rushed to hospital and diagnosed with hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). He spent two weeks in intensive care and required daily dialysis for a number of weeks due to the severity of his symptoms. He is still receiving dialysis three times a week and his treating doctors have confirmed that he is likely to need a kidney transplant in the future because of the severity of the damage to his kidneys.

18 now sick: E coli O55 outbreak in UK


The number of E .coli victims across Dorset has now increased to 18, Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed.

e.coli.O55The seven additional cases have come to light following screening tests carried out on children and staff at the Blandford Children’s Centre.

They are described as “secondary” cases in that they have contracted E coli from another confirmed victim.

It is not known whether the seven new cases are adults or children but a PHE spokesperson said they had not all become unwell from the bug.

PHE also confirmed it has still not managed to find a link between the first victims, and investigations are still being carried out.