E.coli death sparks full medical alert

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The Independent Online
Family doctors and hospitals in Arbroath in Scotland have been put on full alert after a pensioner died in an outbreak of E. coli food poisoning.

Five residents at the Cairnie Lodge nursing home are believed to have been infected with the bacteria, and two local residents - so far thought to be unconnected with the home - are also understood to be ill.

Tayside Health Board was yesterday trying to allay fears of a new public- health crisis in Scotland, following the E. coli 0157 outbreak in Lanarkshire and the Forth Valley in which 18 people died - the world's second-worst E. coli poisoning incident. More than 400 people were affected.

In the new outbreak, three of the seven victims have been confirmed as having E.coli 0157, health officials said yesterday. The two men and a woman are being treated at the infectious diseases unit at King's Cross Hospital in Dundee. The woman who died was named as Catherine Hebenton, 94.

Dr Mike Rowart, the public-health consultant for the health board, told a press conference yesterday that he was confident the outbreak would not reach the level of the earlier one. "Although the health board could not be completely certain, because an infectious disease is involved," he added, "they believe they have done all in their power to contain the outbreak.

"At this stage, we have not turned up any new cases or anyone who became ill after 31 January. So I am reasonably optimistic that we are not going to see a public health problem in Tayside."

The outbreak team in charge of the situation said that they would meet daily until they believed the danger was past, while local doctors have been told to watch for symptoms such as blood in diarrhoea.

Meanwhile, all those suspected of infection at Cairnie Lodge are being kept in isolation and staff are practising "barrier nursing".

Health officials said yesterday that investigations had virtually ruled out any problems at thebutcher and supermarket which supply the home with food.

Michael Forsyth, the Secretary of State for Scotland, said the Scottish Office was treating the outbreak "very seriously indeed" but there was nothing to indicate that it would prove to be on a similar scale to the earlier "disastrous" outbreak.

A statement from St Andrews Homes which runs Cairnie Lodge, said: "Due to the good nursing and catering practices in the nursing home and the diligence of matron Sandra Bean, the outbreak was discovered at a very early stage.

"Health-board officials were immediately involved on-site together with environmental-health officers resulting in the isolation of the affected residents and special measures to contain the infection."