Advice to parents on E. coli O157 at Sutton Park

By on 19/09/2012 in News

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is advising parents that to reduce the risk of serious infection from E.coli O157, children aged 10 years and younger should not visit Sutton Park until further notice.

Working closely with Birmingham City Council, the HPA is clarifying the advice for two reasons. There has been a further case of E.coli O157 in a young child who became seriously ill after visiting the park. This brings the total number of known cases to eight. The child has been discharged from hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.

We have also seen that despite publicity and extensive media coverage, children are still playing in areas of the park where there is animal poo. E. coli O157 can be very serious in younger children. In some instances it can cause kidney failure in children and in the most serious cases it can be fatal, although fortunately all of the six children in this outbreak have recovered.

Dr Roger Gajraj, a consultant with the Health Protection Unit (HPU) in Birmingham said: “E. coli O157 is a serious disease. It is linked to contact with animals and animal poo. You can pick up this bug on your hands and accidentally transfer it to your mouth. Young children are at particular risk because they are more likely to put their fingers in their mouth and the disease can cause severe illness in children under 10.

“We cannot ban children from the park but for the time being to minimise the risk of infection we are asking parents to take them to other parks in the local area. Sutton park is a glorious place and the HPA and Birmingham City Council are working together to make sure that everyone can safely enjoy this wonderful facility in the future.”

Birmingham City Council's Head of Parks, Darren Share, said: “We are working closely with the HPA to control this outbreak. As the infection can be particularly serious for young children we must reinforce our messages on the potential risks. There are alternative animal-free outdoor facilities available in the local area and these are listed on www.birminghamnewsroom.com

“In the meantime we ask adults and older children to take notice of the advice on E.coli on posters throughout the park so that they can reduce their risk of infection.”

New HPA and Birmingham City Council posters will contain the following important advice:

  • Children aged 10 years and younger should not visit the park until further notice.
  • Alternative animal-free sites are available locally.
  • Avoid contact with animals and animal poo.
  • Do not eat or play in areas where there are animals or animal poo.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water as soon as possible after touching fences, contaminated clothes or other surfaces in places where animals have been.
  • Wash hands thoroughly immediately before eating or drinking. Please use the hand washing facilities available at the Visitor Centre, Wyndley Leisure Centre and site restaurants.
  • Do not eat anything that has fallen on the ground.
  • Remove and clean dirty footwear and clean pushchair and bicycle wheels as soon as possible following a visit to the park. Then wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • If you feel ill contact your GP or ring NHS Direct on 0845 4647

Ends

Note to editors:

  1. E. coli O157 is a germ that can cause infection of the bowel. It is usually spread by contact with animals, ingestion of contaminated food or water, or spread from person-to-person.
  2. The incubation period is usually between one to six days, with an average of two days. Symptoms include diarrhoea which is usually settles within two weeks. Some people may have more serious illness with bloody diarrhoea, abdominal pain, raised temperature and shivering and should seek medical advice.
  3. Across the country every year numerous sporadic cases and several outbreaks of E. coli O157 and cryptosporidiosis are associated with visits to animal parks, petting farms or picnicking in environments that have been contaminated by animal faeces.
  4. Clothes, shoes and bicycle wheels can also become contaminated when leaning on fences that surround animal enclosures, from sitting on the ground or cycling through areas that have been contaminated with the bacteria.
  5. The spread of infection can be prevented by thorough hand washing by everyone in the household, especially after using the toilet, before handling food, after handling raw food and immediately before eating.
  6. Hand-washing after contact with animals, even domestic pets, is vital. Young children should be supervised when washing their hands, or have their hands washed for them.
  7. Covering an area of 2,400 acres, Sutton Park is one of the largest urban parks in Europe and attracts over 2 million visitors a year.
  8. For a full list of Sutton Coldfield parks and open spaces, go to: http://birminghamnewsroom.com/2012/09/map-parks-and-open-spaces-in-sutton-coldfield/

Further information on E. coli O157 is available on the HPA website: http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/EscherichiaColiO157/PatientCarer/

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