A person has died in Scotland after falling ill with E coli, in what appears to be the first fatality linked to an outbreak that has affected at least 30 people.
The UK Health Security Agency said the death “has been associated with this outbreak” and added later that it occurred in Scotland, but was unable to provide more information about the case.
The agency said that as of 27 December there had been 30 confirmed cases in England and Scotland linked to an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E coli (Stec), which first emerged in July. The cases involved children as young as seven and those aged up to 81, and most cases had occurred in December.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland announced a precautionary recall of four cheeses made by Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese on Christmas Eve due to possible E coli contamination. It added a fifth product, which is sold by Waitrose, to the recall list on 27 December.
“Epidemiological and food chain investigations have identified links between some of the identified cases and a number of unpasteurised cheeses produced by a business in England,” the agency said.
“UKHSA is continuing to follow up cases to identify any common links, including determining whether cases ate or came into contact with the recalled cheeses.”
The products affected by the recall are: Mrs Kirkham’s Mild & Creamy Lancashire; Mrs Kirkham’s Tasty Lancashire; Mrs Kirkham’s Mature Lancashire; Mrs Kirkham’s Smoked Lancashire; and No 1 Waitrose and Partners, Farmhouse Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese.
Amy Douglas, the agency’s incident director for gastrointestinal infections and food safety division, urged people who suspected they may have been infected not to travel over the holiday season.
“There have been at least 30 confirmed cases of this specific outbreak strain of Stec in the UK,” she said. “Symptoms of Stec include severe diarrhoea (including bloody diarrhoea), stomach cramps, vomiting and fever. If you have diarrhoea and vomiting, you can take steps to avoid passing it on to family and friends over the festive period.
“Washing your hands with soap and warm water and using bleach-based products to clean surfaces will help stop infections from spreading. Don’t prepare food for others if you have symptoms or for 48 hours after symptoms stop.
“Many of us will be travelling for Christmas, but if you are unwell you should avoid visiting people in hospitals and care homes to avoid passing on the infection in these settings. Do not return to work or school once term restarts, until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped.”
The Scottish government and Public Health Scotland have been contacted for comment.