Dorset E. coli O55: Bournemouth boy with kidney damage

Gabrielle Archer and son Isaac
Image caption Gabrielle Archer said son Isaac got "worse and worse" after contracting the rare strain of E. coli

A woman whose son has permanent kidney damage through a rare E. coli infection has described her "petrifying" ordeal.

Gabrielle Archer, from Bournemouth, said Isaac, three, was "riding his scooter on his birthday and within five days he was in intensive care".

Public Health England (PHE) has revealed 10 people have been infected in Dorset since July.

PHE said the "cluster" involved the O55 strain, not identified in England since records began in 1994.

An investigation to find the source is under way, after the outbreak of cases in Blandford, Poole and Bournemouth.

Seven of those affected developed kidney problems, but there have been no deaths, PHE confirmed.

The most frequently reported E. coli strain to cause illness in England and Wales is O157, which can be fatal.

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption The most frequently reported E. coli strain to cause illness in England and Wales is O157

Ms Archer said Isaac became sick on his birthday and she took him to hospital that night after seeing blood in his stools.

He began to pass blood in his urine and a scan later revealed his kidneys were failing and he needed dialysis.

"His whole face had become waterlogged," she explained. "He could barely open his eyes because they were so puffy.

"I didn't stop shaking for days and days and it just got worse and worse.

"You should never have to see your child ventilated and in intensive care, linked up to so many machines that you don't know what machine is doing what. It was petrifying.

"We didn't know anything about E. coli… you couldn't take it in."

'Difficult to pinpoint'

Ms Archer believes Isaac became infected at a specific Dorset restaurant.

"We took him out for food and he ate something that was obviously contaminated.

"My sister came down with the same illness, we've met another family with the same illness, we've all had the same strains of E. coli and our only connection is this one place so in our heads that has to be the place. All the timescales fit."

However, Noëleen McFarland, consultant in health protection at PHE Wessex, said there was no evidence of contamination at the restaurant in question after a "thorough" investigation by environmental health officers.

"Because it's rare there must be something out there in Dorset that is a source for this strain of E. coli," said Ms McFarland.

"It's difficult to identify a source because... there isn't any commonalities between all those cases.

"Because of the lifestyles we all lead it's very difficult to pinpoint... but that is why the investigation is ongoing."

Avoiding E. coli infection

  • Wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet, before and after handling food, and after handling animals
  • Remove any loose soil before storing vegetables and salads
  • Wash all vegetables and fruits that will be eaten raw
  • Store and prepare raw meat and unwashed vegetables away from ready-to-eat foods
  • Do not prepare raw vegetables with utensils that have also been used for raw meat
  • Cook all minced meat products, such as burgers and meat balls, thoroughly
  • People who have been ill should not prepare food for others for at least 48 hours after they have recovered

Source: Public Health England

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