THE outbreak of E Coli at a Belfast restaurant has now hit 138 confirmed cases.
And the Public Health Agency has said that the number of probable cases has risen to 168 at Flicks restaurant in the Cityside Mall, north Belfast.
The PHA said that figures were correct as of 3pm yesterday.
It is still not clear what caused the outbreak which forced owner Michael McAdam to close the restaurant’s doors.
The increase in confirmed cases over the past week is not unexpected and is as a result of probable cases becoming confirmed following testing.
The number of probable cases is levelling off as fewer new reports are coming forward, say the PHA.
A statement from the Public Health Agency said: “The increase in confirmed cases over recent days is not unexpected and is as a result of probable cases becoming confirmed following testing.
“The number of probable cases is levelling off as fewer new reports are coming forward.”
The PHA is working with Environmental Health Officers from Belfast City Council to investigate the outbreak.
The confirmed E. coli cases in October are Type 54.
In August, four cases were linked to the restaurant. They were confirmed as Type 8.
However, all tests carried out at the restaurant at the time came back negative.
The PHA is advising anyone who ate at Flicks restaurant since 24 September and has symptoms of diarrhoea – especially bloody diarrhoea – and/or abdominal pain to contact their GP urgently for medical advice.
Dr Carolyn Harper, of the PHA, explained: “Escherichia coli bacteria are commonly found in the intestines of humans and animals. There are many different types of E. coli, and while some live in the intestine quite harmlessly, others may cause a variety of diseases.
“The bacterium is found in faeces and can survive in the environment. “Symptoms caused by E. coli O157 can include diarrhoea, which can range from mild to profuse watery or bloody diarrhoea, tummy cramps, nausea or vomiting.”
The UK’s worst E coli outbreak to date, in Lanarkshire in 1996, killed 21 people.
The source – a small butcher’s shop where there was cross-contamination between raw and ready-to-eat meats – was fairly quickly identified because the cases were localised.