Ekka’s bug could kill, warn doctors

A SUNSHINE Coast doctor has urged people who came up close and cuddly with farm animals at the Brisbane Ekka animal nursery to remain vigilant for signs of the potentially deadly e-coli infection.

Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Board member, Mason Stevenson, said anyone who visited Ekka and experienced severe, persistent diarrhoea or blood in the stool should seek medical advice.

Queensland's Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young issued a health alert on Friday afternoon, after four people, three of whom were children, tested positive for shiga toxin-producing e-coli or STEC.

While the four were from separate Brisbane families, Dr Stevenson said Coast residents should be wary of the signs of gastroenteritis.

In some cases STEC could lead to a blood disease, hemolytic uremic syndrome, which resulted in significant kidney damage and could be fatal.

Dr Stevenson said persistent diarrhoea and vomiting were obvious signs of the infection.

"There is potential for this to be more serious than your average type of gastroenteritis," Dr Stevenson said.

"This is much like the food poisoning you acquire while overseas, and when this is toxin-producing, it can have internal effects which can affect vital organs, traditionally kidneys and sometimes heart, which is made worse by dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhoea.

"The young and elderly in our community are most at risk.

"I have heard of people coming in with this type of infection from animals, because there is some crossover between the animal kingdom and humans when it comes to bowel bugs which reinforce the importance of hygiene after handling animals.

"Traditionally in Australia and on the Sunshine Coast, most gastroenteritis is mild but this type seen from the Ekka is more serious.

"But I think if someone did attend the Ekka and a week has lapsed with no symptoms, they would be in the clear."

Dr Young said authorities were working with Biosecurity Queensland and Ekka officials to track down the source of the infection.

The incubation period for STEC is two to 10 days with most cases developing within three or four days.



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