E. coli O157 outbreak being investigated in Scotland

Public health officials in Scotland have reported an outbreak of E. coli O157 affecting children at a nursery.

The NHS Borders Health Protection team said Cherrytrees nursery in Hawick has temporarily closed.

NHS Borders has refused to say how many people are sick but Cherrytrees is a 63-place day nursery for children from 6 weeks to 12 years old.

Anyone who attends or works at the nursery and could have been exposed to the infection since May 9 and has been asked to stay at home and be tested to help ensure the spread of illness is contained. There is no evidence to suggest that the source of infection is the nursery.

People usually notice symptoms three to four days after being infected, but they can start any time between one and 14 days afterward and can last up to two weeks.

Tim Patterson, director of public health at NHS Borders, said the measures being taken are preventative to limit the spread of infection.

“Symptoms of E. coli include diarrhea, stomach cramps and occasionally fever. About half of people with the infection will have bloody diarrhea. If you or your child have attended Cherrytrees nursery since May 9 and develop any of these symptoms then call your General Practitioner, or NHS 24 on 111 if your GP surgery is closed, and let them know. They may arrange for your child to come to the Borders General Hospital to have their stool and bloods checked. If your child is well you will be able to go home to wait for the results,” he said.

In a statement on Facebook, the nursery thanked staff for managing the situation and parents for their understanding and support.

E. coli O157 can be caught in different ways such as by eating contaminated food, touching infected animals or coming into contact with their feces, contact with people who have the illness or drinking contaminated water.

About E. coli infections
Anyone who has developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible food poisoning. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

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