Supplier suspect in germ outbreak

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
A Bridgend meat supplier has been named as a possible link to an outbreak of E.coli which has left dozens of pupils seriously ill.

As TES Cymru went to press, public health experts said a link had been established between the cases and John Tudor and Son, which supplies cooked meats to schools and councils.

BBC Wales reported the Food Standards Agency Wales, saying the firm's products had been withdrawn. It said the agency had asked local education authorities to ensure all cooked meat products from the firm delivered on or before September 20 were removed. Pre-cooked meat was taken off school menus in four LEAs in south Wales on Wednesday, when the number of victims of the outbreak stood at 56.

In all, 25 schools have been struck, mostly infant and primaries, though three secondaries have reported cases. A three-year-old girl was said to be in a "serious but stable condition" at Bristol Children's Hospital.

Caitlin Bray, a nursery pupil at Penygraig school, Rhondda, developed a life-threatening condition capable of causing kidney failure as a result of E.coli. Her mum, Lisa Bray, has also been struck down with the germ, possibly due to contact with her daughter.

Officials identified schools as a common factor after seven cases were reported at the weekend. They believe the outbreak has been contained, but that the number of cases will rise in the next week because E.coli has a 14-day incubation period.

Schools have stayed open across Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Caerphilly and Bridgend, but have been advised to pay special attention to basic hygiene.

Primary pupils have been banned from playing with sand and water to reduce the risk of transmission. A spokesperson for Rhondda Cynon Taf, the county with the most cases, said: "From our knowledge of E.coli we are confident with the advice given to us to keep schools open.

"We want to reassure parents who feel they should be keeping their children home that we are acting on sound advice."

E.coli has symptoms similar to severe food poisoning and can be life-threatening. It can be contracted from handling raw meat, eating undercooked food, drinking untreated milk or dairy products, contact with animals, or from contact with another person.

Dr Roland Salmon from the National Public Health Service, said: "We feel confident that measures put in place since the weekend will protect children going to school."

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