Public Health Advice Following Outbreak of E.Coli In Mid-West Water Supply

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The Department of Public Health Mid-West would like to highlight the importance of strong hand hygiene and effective well water treatment, following a recent outbreak of Verotoxigenic E. coli (VTEC) in a single setting in the Mid-West region.

VTEC is a powerful strain of E. coli bacterium that can cause serious illness in children aged under five, and the elderly.

Public Health Mid-West is currently managing an outbreak of VTEC among young children in a single setting. They would like to reassure the public that these isolated outbreaks do not affect the department’s work in managing the COVID-19 pandemic, or any other infectious disease in the region.

The most common ways to be infected with VTEC are through contact with farm animals (including those in pet and open farms), untreated water from private wells, person to person contact in creches or households where there are children under five years of age, and through food and drinks that are contaminated with tiny amounts of faecal matter.

VTEC is usually uncomplicated and most people recover without issue, and it can be treated by drinking plenty of fluids. Antibiotics do not kill the VTEC germs, and may increase the risk of Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS). 

VTEC can be particularly problematic as it can cause HUS in 5-10% of cases. HUS leads to the destruction of red blood cells and kidney failure, with some patients requiring intensive dialysis treatment. Five percent of people who develop this dangerous, life-threatening condition may die.

Incidence of VTEC tends to be higher in warmer weather, particularly over the summer time, though the annual case number is likely to be lower in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Mid-West, there were 128 cases in 2018; 130 in 2019; and 117 in 2020.

Tipperary County Council: