Nursery pupil struck down by E-Coli

CHILDREN and staff at a nursery school in east Belfast are to be tested for a potentially fatal infection after a child was struck down with a strain of the E.Coli virus.

The tests on up to 60 four year olds and their leaders following confirmation that a pupil at Ravenscroft Nursery School became ill with the bug.

The child was last night said by the Eastern Health Board to be "recovering well" after treatment at hospital.

A specialist in public health last night spoke to dispel fears that the school, at Ravenscroft Avenue, was at the centre of an outbreak, stating the source of the bug had not yet been confirmed.

The Eastern Board yesterday said the tests on the affected child's classmates and teachers were a precautionary measure, so any other cases can be quickly detected.

"A number of children at the nursery have had diarrhoea and vomiting, but the board said this may be unrelated and due to other seasonal illnesses that can also cause this."

Children and pensioners are especially vulnerable to E. coli 0157 which is normally found in the intestines of people and cattle and can be passed on by eating infected food and liquid.

E.coli infection can, in certain cases, cause severe gastrointestinal illness and even death.

Most people recover well without suffering serious illness and some can carry the infection without ever displaying symptoms.

A spokesman for the Eastern Board said: "People should not be unduly concerned but anyone in contact with the facility and who displays symptoms of sickness or diarrhoea in the coming days should seek the advice of their doctor."

Dr Lourda Geoghegan, specialist registrar in Public Health Medicine in Northern Ireland, said "at the moment we have not assessed the direct source" of the Ecoli.

"We're not saying it's an outbreak and we are not even sure we are dealing with an outbreak at this time," she added.

The board is also working in close association with Belfast City Council's environmental health services staff on relevant aspects and will be monitoring the situation over the coming days.