Dozens of children at Wigan nursery are being tested for a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection after a toddler was hospitalised this week.
Letters have been sent out to warn families with infants at Little Angels Under-Threes nursery in Golborne after a tot fell seriously ill with hemolytic-uremic syndrome - a condition often brought on by bowel infections such as e-coli.
While the youngster remains at Manchester Royal Infirmary, parents are being urged to collect samples from their young ones to have tested urgently for the infection.
Two versions of the letter have been sent out, one to parents of children with symptoms and one to parents of children without.
The “symptomatic” letter differs only slightly in the introduction, saying: “To the parents/staff of children currently off sick with gastrointestinal symptoms at the Little Angels Under Threes Nursery.
“I am writing regarding a child that attends the nursery who is currently being in treated in hospital for an illness that may have been caused by Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infection.
“Testing for infection There is a small risk that other children/staff in the nursery could be affected, even if they have no symptoms at present.
“As a precaution Public Health England and Wigan Council are advising that children/staff in the nursery should be tested for the infection. This involves submitting two faeces (poo) samples taken more than 24 hours apart.
“Sample pots have been delivered to you, please follow the instructions included with the sample pots and return the sample to the nursery as soon as possible.
“As this is only a precautionary measure at this stage, the nursery will remain open and you(staff)/your child can attend while awaiting the result of the samples.”
A parent, who did not wish to be identified, told the Wigan Post: “The letter came completely out of the blue and it is of course very worrying given what has happened to the toddler.
“But the nursery and the health authorities have been excellent in their response to the issue.”
Information has been shared with Wigan health services so that they are aware in case anyone presents with similar symptoms.
According to Public Health England; the bacteria, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (Stec), can cause a variety of illnesses ranging from mild diarrhoea to “life-threatening conditions”.
The infection is also known to cause a “very serious illness” called Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS).
The authority says: “The risk of HUS is highest in children aged under six.”
Public Health England North West says it is working closely with Wigan Council after a child that attends Little Angels Under Threes Nursery in Golborne was admitted to hospital for an illness that may have been caused by Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infection.
It said parents and staff have been informed of the situation and faecal sampling of staff and children at the nursery is being undertaken. Wigan Council and PHE have advised the nursery on control measures to mitigate any on-going risk and the nursery are co-operating fully with the investigation.
A joint statement from Prof Kate Ardern, director of public health at Wigan Council and Dr Matt Pegorie, Consultant in Health Protection at PHE North West, said: “Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infection causes a spectrum of illness ranging from mild through to severe bloody diarrhoea, mostly without fever.
“It can be acquired through a number of routes including contaminated food, contact with farm animals and infected water. It can also be passed on by close contact with an affected case.
“PHE are working with Wigan Council and the nursery to investigate further. People can be reassured that this is a relatively rare infection. Good hand hygiene for all and supervised hand hygiene for small children is essential to minimise the risk of developing an infection.”