LONDON, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Public Health Agency (PHA) in North Ireland said on Tuesday an outbreak of E. coli bacteria in Belfast may have affected 170 people.
PHA said in a statement that as of 3 p.m. (GMT 1400) on Tuesday, there are 20 confirmed cases and 150 probable cases. Six people have been hospitalized since the start of the outbreak, but most have now gone home.
"The further increase in cases is not unexpected as the incubation period for E. coli is typically up to seven days. We expect therefore to see a further increase in cases as people continue to report symptoms and submit samples for testing," said Dr. Michael Devine, Consultant in Health Protection, PHA.
The outbreak of E. coli O157 is linked to Flicks restaurant in Cityside Mall, 100-150 York Street, Belfast. The management of Flicks have voluntarily closed the premises and are cooperating with the investigation.
The PHA has advised that anyone who ate at Flicks restaurant since Sept. 24 and has symptoms of diarrhea and/or abdominal pain should contact doctor urgently for medical advice.
The E. coli bacteria are commonly found in the intestines of humans and animals. It is found in faeces and can survive in the environment.
Dr. Evine said, "Symptoms cause by E. coli O157 can include diarrhea, which can range from mild to profuse watery or bloody diarrhea, tummy cramps, nausea or vomiting."
"It's vital that everyone follows some simple rules to prevent the spread of E. coli - not just those with symptoms, but everyone should wash their hands after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food," he said.
"Raw and cooked food should be kept completely separate, raw meat should be cooked through and vegetables and fruit should be washed thoroughly before eating."