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School outbreak of Escherichia coli O157 with high levels of transmission, Staffordshire, England, February 2012

19 Oct 2016

Background

Verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) are bacteria that cause infectious gastroenteritis and in certain settings can cause widespread infection due to secondary transmission. We describe the findings of an investigation of a school-based outbreak of VTEC in Staffordshire, England.

Methods

Outbreak investigation at a school in February 2012 after two children were diagnosed with VTEC infection. Cases were defined as pupils and staff (or their household contacts) with gastrointestinal symptoms or asymptomatic screened persons, with laboratory confirmed VTEC O157 infection (phage type 32, verocytotoxin 2) occurring on or after 1 February 2012. Microbiological tests of food and faecal samples plus screening of asymptomatic contacts were undertaken. Epidemiological and clinical data were descriptively analysed.

Results

Thirty-eight cases were detected. Nineteen were asymptomatic and identified via screening of 191 pupils. Infection was introduced into the school from an earlier household cluster, followed by extensive person-to-person transmission within the nursery/infant group with limited spread to the wider school population.

Conclusions

Control measures included several interventions, in particular, universal screening of pupils and staff. Screening during school outbreaks is not underpinned by guidance but proved to be a key control measure. Screening of asymptomatic contacts should be considered in similar outbreaks.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Journal of Public Health