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Caithness News Bulletins May 2006

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Council Informs Education and Catering Services About E.coli O157
The Highland Council is writing to all pre-school, early years and nursery groups in Highland to remind managers and proprietors of their responsibilities regarding infection control and food hygiene and E.coli O157.

A similar letter is also being sent to all Education, Culture and Sport Service catering establishments which includes school canteens, leisure centres, swimming pools, museums and visitor centre cafes.

Bruce Robertson, The Highland Council's Director of Education, Culture and Sport said: "Clearly we are taking the recent events in Fife and Aberdeenshire very seriously and we have been in discussion with our Environmental Health Officers, with colleagues in NHS Highland and with the Director of Public Health who have provided guidance that we are issuing on E.coli O157."

In the letter, Alan Yates, Highland Council's Principal Food Safety Officer reminds managers of their responsibilities regarding infection control and food hygiene and provides basic advice on E.coli O157. He also reminds them of the National Care Standards and general Health and Safety law which place clear responsibilities on them to protect the health of children in their care.

He said: "This includes taking measures to control the spread of infection. NHS Highland produces a guidance booklet "Infection Control Guidance for the Pre-school setting", which provides all the key information on prevention and control of infection in early years establishments. Copies are available free by calling the NHS Highland Health Protection team on 01463 704886 or the document can be downloaded from the NHS Highland website at: http://www.nhshighland.scot.nhs.uk/Your%20Health/Health%20Protection/index.htm

Regarding food hygiene, Mr Yates reminds managers of the Food Safety legislation that places responsibilities on managers and proprietors to ensure all food prepared in premises is safe to eat. Detailed advice is available from local environmental health offices and from the website www.food.gov.uk

Shedding Light On Ecoli157

What is E.coli O157?
E.coli are a type of bacteria found in the human intestine, most of which are quite harmless. However, E.coli O157 produces toxins that can cause severe disease in man.

Where does E.coli O157 come from?
E. coli O157 can be found in animals and can contaminate water supplies and certain types of food. Contact with faeces of an infected person can cause person to person spread. Billions of bacteria can be shed by an infected child during bouts of diarrhoea.

What Are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of E.coli O157 infection include bloody diarrhoea and severe stomach cramps. In its mildest form, the symptoms often clear up within about eight days. Unfortunately, a low number of cases develop kidney disease or failure (Haemolytic Uraemia Syndrome ~ HUS). Children under 10 are most susceptible to HUS.

There are four crucial areas to prevent the spread of E. coli O157 infection in your childcare facility:

1. Toilet and Hygiene Practices

  • Always wash your hands in warm soapy water:

  • Before and after preparing food

  • After changing nappies

  • After going to the toilet.

  • Children should be taught to wash their hands after using the toilet, before eating and after direct contact with animals. This should be supervised.

  • Soiled nappies and used wipes should be disposed of hygienically.

2. Avoid the Spread of Infection between Children

  • Children and staff who are suffering from sickness and/or diarrhoea should be kept away from the childcare facility until at least 48 hours after their symptoms cease.

  • If a child has vomited or has suffered a bout of diarrhoea in the childcare facility, the affected area should be cleaned and disinfected at once. The child's parents should be contacted to collect the child immediately. All children should be kept out of this area until it has been cleaned and disinfected. Those cleaning the area should wash their hands thoroughly afterwards.

 3. Food Preparation and Storage

  • Wash your hands regularly

  • Keep the storage and preparation of raw and cooked food strictly separate.

  • Avoid unnecessary handling of food ~ use spoons or tongs wherever possible.

  • Keep perishable food refrigerated.

  • Do not prepare food too far in advance.

  • When cooking or reheating food ensure it gets piping hot. Care must be taken to ensure foods cool down to be safe eating temperature before serving.

  • Clean as you go. Keep all equipment and surfaces clean.

  • Keep yourself clean and wear clean clothing.

  •  When cooking burgers or minced meat, make sure you cook thoroughly so that the juices run clear.

  • Pay particular attention to preventing cross contamination of ready-to-eat foods with bacteria on raw meat. Store these foods separately and use separate utensils. Clean equipment and surfaces thoroughly and immediately after preparing raw meat.

4. Safe Water Supply
If your childcare facility is served by a private drinking water supply you should ensure that the water is safe and that it complies with legal drinking water standards. Please contact your local environmental health office for further information.