Outbreaks of E coli

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7076.241 (Published 25 January 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:241

Prevention may rest on time hallowed public health principles, rather than research

  1. R L Salmon, Consultant epidemiologista
  1. a Public Health Laboratory Service, Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (Wales), Cardiff CF4 3QX

    Verotoxin producing Escherichia coli causes severe gastrointestinal disease, often with frank blood in the stool (haemorrhagic colitis). In about 2-7% of cases infection is complicated by haemolytic uraemic syndrome,1 which has a mortality of 3-5%. The current outbreak of infection with E coli 0157 in Scotland,2 described as “the second largest recorded outbreak anywhere,” is the subject of an interim report by Professor Hugh Pennington's expert group, produced with commendable speed.

    Perhaps inevitably, the group has been able to discharge some parts of its remit better than others. With various legal proceedings pending, the first part of its remit—to examine the specific “circumstances which led to the outbreak”—receives only a brief reference. There are no descriptive or other data. Regarding the second part of its remit—“the implications for food safety and …

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