Ten people taken to hospital in suspected outbreak of E.coli in Lancashire village

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Ten people have been admitted to hospital after a suspected outbreak of the potentially fatal E.coli O157 in a Lancashire village.

Ten people have been admitted to hospital after a suspected outbreak of the potentially fatal E.coli O157 in a Lancashire village.

There are two confirmed cases and eight others are suspected of having the bug, including a 10-year-old child.

A spokesman for the North West regional health authority insisted there was no suggestion that the suspected outbreak in Eccleston near Chorley was getting worse. But he said officials were taking no chances and anyone showing symptoms of E.coli poisoning was being admitted to hospital for observation and treatment.

Although the source of the bacteria has not been confirmed, it is thought to be the Eccleston branch of the Kwik Save supermarket. A number of those taken ill bought meat at the delicatessen counter.

Yesterday Kwik Save closed its delicatessen at the store, urging customers to return recently purchased meat or cheese. It also shut down its greengrocery concession and recalled fresh fruit and vegetables bought over the last week.

A company spokesman said: "We are concerned that there could be a food safety risk to consumers who have bought meat and cheese from the deli counter in our Eccleston Kwik Save store. As a matter of caution we would ask them not to eat the product but to return it to the store.

"While the environmental health team have not yet established the probable source of a case of food poisoning, we believe that this is the right action to take."

None of those believed to have contracted the bug is said to be seriously ill.

Illness from E.coli is relatively rare. Most strains of the bacterium are harmless and can be found in the intestines of people and cattle. The O157 strain first appeared in Britain in the 1980s. In the past decade, the number of cases of illness caused by this strain has risen from 361 in 1990 to about 1,200 last year. The worst outbreak was in Scotland in 1997 when 20 elderly people died.

The illness is transmitted through infected food ­ particularly undercooked beef ­ or by water contaminated with sewage.The elderly and young children are particularly vulnerable to the bug, which can cause severe stomach upsets, cramps and bloody diarrhoea. About 10 per cent of cases are fatal.

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