Public Health Scotland (PHS) is working with NHS Boards in Scotland, UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and other public health agencies across the UK to investigate an increase in the number of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) cases across the UK in recent weeks.

Infections caused by STEC bacteria can cause severe bloody diarrhoea and, in some cases, more serious complications. It is often transmitted by eating contaminated food but can also be spread by close contact with an infected person, as well as direct contact with an infected animal or its environment.

Investigations indicate that most cases are part of a single outbreak. Based on the wide geographic spread of cases, it is most likely that this outbreak is linked to a food item or multiple food items distributed across the UK. PHS and the public health agencies are working with Food Standards Scotland and the Food Standards Agency to investigate further.

As of 4 June, there have been 13 confirmed cases in Scotland. Cases are being seen in all age groups with most cases in young adults.

While the source of this outbreak is currently unknown, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of gastrointestinal infections, as well as limiting the spread to others:

  • Regularly wash your hands with warm water and soap. Alcohol gels don’t kill all bugs that cause diarrhoeal illness
  • Follow food hygiene measures such as washing fruit and vegetables and cooking food properly
  • If you have diarrhoea and vomiting, you should not prepare food for others and avoid visiting people in hospitals or care homes to avoid passing on the infection
  •  You should not return to work, school or nursery until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped.

Jim McMenamin, Head of Health Protection (infection Services), Public Health Scotland, said:

“To help stop infections like E. coli from spreading, we advise regular hand washing using soap and water, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food. People should also use disinfectants to clean surfaces that may be contaminated. Anyone experiencing severe and sometimes bloody diarrhoea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever should call their GP or 111 to seek advice. Anyone with diarrhoea or vomiting should avoid attending places such as schools, workplaces or social gatherings until at least 48 hours after their symptoms have ceased.”

Further information and advice can be found on the NHS Inform advice web pages on diarrhoea or gastroenteritis.

Update - 14 June 2024

The latest case figures and information can be found on the UKHSA website.

Last updated: 20 June 2024