The Health Service Executive (HSE) has warned the public to take extra care when it comes to food hygiene.

 

The HSE has reported an increase in the number of VTEC (E.coli) infections over the last couple of weeks.

 

The health service has advised the public to be extra careful when handling and preparing food.

 

VTEC is a strand of E.coli that can be found in the gut of healthy cattle and sheep.

 

 

The E-coli infection is a common cause of food poisoning but it can lead to serious health complications.

 

The advice given by HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) to avoid contracting the infection, is to always thoroughly wash your hand before and after handling food, wash fruit and vegetables well before consuming them and to ensure minced meats is cooked all the way through.

 

Minced meat burgers should be cooked to a core temperature of 75 degrees.

 

In 2013, a study of Irish raw minced beef burgers and minced beef samples taken from retail and catering premises found VTEC had been detected in two and a half percent of samples. 

 

 

However, the infection can be passed from person-to-person through poor hygiene and poor hand-washing, says HSE.

 

"This is particularly common among toddlers who are not toilet trained. Family members and playmates of these children are at high risk of becoming infected.

 

"Any vegetables or fruit that have been contaminated by animal faeces and which are not washed properly before consumption can also cause infection."

 

In the last two weeks, 96 VTEC cases were recorded, which is three times higher than this time last year.

 

 

The Assistant National Director of public health at the HSE, Dr Kevin Kelleher commented on the outbreak, saying:

 

"While investigations haven't identified a specific reason for the increase in cases we would like to remind people to be careful about food safety during this heatwave to protect themselves against food poisoning.

 

"This hot weather provides the right conditions for bacteria such as VTEC to grow and multiply on foods which can lead to high numbers of cases of food poisoning in adults and children.

 

"Not washing hands after handling raw meat, not washing fruits and vegetables and undercooking minced meats such as beef burgers are common ways of getting food poisoning at this time of year."

 

 

The symptoms of the bug can vary but can include bloody diarrhoea and abdominal cramps. 

 

In some cases, you can have no symptoms at all, but if you do experience them, they will usually last anywhere from five to 10 days.

 

Furthermore, in 10 percent of cases, the VTEC infection can turn into a more serious complication called Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS).

 

HUS can lead to kidney failure, and occasionally can be fatal.

 

You can visit the food safety's website for more information on how to avoid VTEC.

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