Four Longford children have been hospitalised after a recent outbreak of E.coli in two Co Longford creches.
Over the past six weeks there have been two outbreaks of verotoxin producing the E.coli infection in Co Longford, which predominantly affected young children. Four children who were hospitalised have since been discharged home. As a precautionary measure, two crèches were closed for a period of time but both have since re-opened.
It is understood the Department of Public Health carried out screening of all other children who attended the same crèches as the children affected. This is in accordance with the national guidelines on the management of these infections.
Nationally over the last two years, there have been a number of outbreaks of verotoxin producing E.coli infection which has necessitated the closure of crèches.
However, in a statement, the HSE said there is nothing to suggest that the infection originated within the crèches. E.coli infections can be found in water supplies, on some farm animals or in certain types of food. The HSE also said crèches are cooperating fully with the Department of Public Health.
Last year, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said there were 285 cases of E.coli recorded by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, compared to 199 in 2010. In April, they warned crèches to guard against the spread of E.coli following the growing prevalence of the potentially deadly bacteria in the community. Infection typically causes diarrhoea, sometimes bloody, and abdominal cramps. Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS) is a serious complication of this disease and is the leading cause of kidney failure in children.
Even if the person recovers from the diarrhoeal illness, they can still develop kidney complications some weeks later. Signs of HUS include irritability, weakness, paleness, bruising, skin rash with red little spots, passing only small amounts of urine, decreased consciousness and in rare cases, seizures.
Person-to-person spread of E. coli bacteria can occur quite commonly in young children. The HSE stress that children with diarrhoea should be kept out of crèches and other childcare facilities until they are symptom free.
They also remind people that careful hand washing is the most important measure to prevent the spread of this infection. Longford County Childcare Committee, which acts in an advisory and co-ordinating capacity to crèches and other childcare facilities locally, stressed this is purely an issue for the HSE.