Since the second week of May, there have been reports of approximately 214 cases of HUS with two deaths being reported.
The strain of VTEC infection suspected in this outbreak is O104 which is a rare strain of the infection which is seldom seen in the UK. In England there have been two cases in German nationals. Other European countries, notably Sweden, have also reported cases of HUS and bloody diarrhoea among returning travellers. Early studies suggest a link to raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce.
To date, there have been no reported cases of VTEC infections of E. coli O104 in Northern Ireland but there is always the possibility of infection in travellers returning from northern Europe.
The symptoms seem to be similar but more severe than those experienced by persons affect by E. coli O157. The DHSSPS has made the relevant doctors aware of the need for vigilance in patients presenting with severe gastrointestinal symptoms particularly those with bloody diarrhoea.